Pants battle not stopping

2009-09-08 22:11

Khartoum - Sudanese journalist Lubna Ahmed Hussein who spent a day in jail for refusing to pay a fine for wearing "indecent trousers" vowed upon her release on Tuesday to keep up the battle against the law.

"We will continue the fight to change this law, the public order police, the public order tribunals," she told AFP at the offices of Ajras Al-Hurriya (Bells of Freedom) newspaper where noisy supporters celebrated her release.

Hussein was imprisoned on Monday after she refused to pay the fine imposed earlier on the same day by a Khartoum court for wearing trousers deemed indecent. She could have faced one month in jail.

"She came out of prison. We paid the $200 fine," explained Mohiedinne Titawi, president of the Sudanese Union of Journalists, announcing the release.

"I don't even know who paid the fine, I had told my family and friends not to pay it," Hussein said.

The journalist was wearing slacks when she was arrested along with 12 other women in a Khartoum restaurant in July.

Maximum of 40 lashes

Sudanese law in the conservative Muslim north stipulates a maximum of 40 lashes for wearing indecent clothing.

Women in trousers are not a rare sight in Sudan but the authorities can take offence at trousers which reveal too much of a woman's shape, leading to accusations from rights groups that judgement is arbitrary.

Ten of the women arrested in July on the indecent dress charge, including Christians, were subsequently summoned by police and each given 10 lashes.

Hussein led a public battle against the law, resigning from the UN, where she worked as a media officer, to stand trial.

Her case led to an outcry abroad and demonstrations at home.

The office of the UN human rights chief on Tuesday said her sentencing breached international law and exemplified the discrimination faced by women in Sudan.

"Lubna Hussein's case is, in our view, emblematic of a wider pattern of ... application of discriminatory laws against women in Sudan," said Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

On Friday, Amnesty International urged the Khartoum government to withdraw the charges against Hussein, saying the law used to justify flogging women for wearing clothes deemed "indecent" should be repealed.