If the recent incident in Malaysia involving a Muslim lady caught drinking and sentenced to be whipped though the case is still pending has not caused much hue-and-cry, this one that happened in Sudan is even more absurd. See the story below by Guillaume Lavallee.
KHARTOUM (AFP) – Sudanese journalist Lubna Ahmed Hussein who spent a day in jail for refusing to pay a fine for wearing "indecent trousers" vowed on 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 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 500-pound (200-dollar) 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.
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.
In Hussein's case, the court opted for the 500 Sudanese pounds (200 dollars) fine rather than a flogging, but ten of the 12 other women who were arrested in a Khartoum restaurant at the same time as Hussein have been whipped for their offence.
Last year nearly 43,000 women were detained for indecent clothing offences in Khartoum region, where five million people live, according to Hussein's supporters.
Hussein, who was released after one day when the journalists' union paid her fine, felt the loose trousers she was wearing when arrested were not indecent and the incident spurred her to wage a public challenge to the law.
She resigned from the United Nations so she could stand trial and publicise her campaign.
In the trial, the judge sought to determine whether her trousers were too tight, according to witnesses in the court, which was closed to journalists.
She has pledged to continue fighting the law, challenging anyone to provide her evidence that it has grounds in the Koran and the Prophetic traditions, which comprise the source of Islamic legislation.
"I'm ready for anything to happen. I'm absolutely not afraid of the verdict," she told AFP in an interview on August 3. "If I'm sentenced to be whipped, or to anything else, I will appeal. I will see it through to the end, to the constitutional court if necessary.
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, spokesman 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.