In Sudan I would be facing a whipping for what I wore today. My hair was everywhere, I was wearing baggy jeans and a light-weight v-neck cotton jumper. You could see the contours of my muffin top through the jumper. In Sudan this kind of thing is prosecuted as a criminal act.
Article 152 of the Sudanese Penal Code 1991 states that:
“Whoever does in a public place an indecent act… or wears an obscene outfit…shall be punished with flogging which may not exceed forty lashes or with fine or with both….”
“The law is crafted in a way that makes it impossible to know what is decent or indecent,” said Tawanda Hondora. “In practice, women are routinely arrested, detained, tried and then, on conviction, flogged simply because a police officer disapproves of their clothing. The law is also discriminatory, in that it is used disproportionately against women.”
In 2003, the African Commission ordered Sudan to amend Article 152 on the grounds that flogging amounted to state-sanctioned torture, after eight women brought a case against the government when they were arrested for publicly picnicking with male friends. The eight were flogged in public using a wire and plastic whip, which reportedly left permanent scars on the women. The government has made no moves to amend the law since the Commission’s decision.”
The Sudanese judge spared Lubna Hussein a whipping for the crime of wearing trousers by commuting it to a fine. Lubna Hussein, who had refused the authorities’ face-saving Presidential pardon, refused to recognise the his decision or to pay, refused the diplomatic immunity which her UN job could have conferred, so she’s going to prison. Ten women have been flogged so far further to this case, including some girls.
The courageous “dozens” of protesters who demonstrated outside the court were beaten by the Sudanese police, and if they were women and wearing trousers (most of them were) they were arrested.
“The women were later joined by dozens of men in traditional Islamic dress who shouted religious slogans and denounced Hussein and her supporters, describing them as prostitutes and demanding a harsh punishment for Hussein.”
More from the Arabic Network of Human Rights Information:
Hussein’s lawyer is arguing that she didn’t break the law because the law can’t be pinned down on trousers. A vox-popped demonstrator on the 6 o’clock news also defended trousers by with reference to a higher authority, here the Koran. This is certainly the safest approach in Sudan, but Lubna Hussein is resigned: “I’m not looking to be found innocent”. Personally I think this aspect of Sudanese law is a pile of trash, as I must unless I also believe that my country hasn’t progressed miles since the authorities back in the not too distant past were flogging people perceived as menaces to society, and unless I’m not grateful to be living in a state that as far as I know never sanctioned women for showing their form. Lubna Hussein also thinks such a law is garbage:
“And if the constitutional court says the law is constitutional, I’m ready to be whipped not 40 but 40,000 times,”
I for one am not about to take my happy circumstances for granted when Sudanese women are being flogged – whipped, beaten, assaulted, tortured – for the way they’ve chosen to dress.
In Malaysia, Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno was beaten for having a beer. She thought it appropriate to repent and publicly welcome the beating:
“Authorities have insisted Kartika will not feel much physical pain because the rattan cane will be smaller and lighter than the one for men, and its purpose was to “educate” rather than punish.”
Behavioural conditioning, as cruel disciplinarians might attempt to educate an animal.
One thing you can do via Amnesty is send a message to Sudan’s Minister of Justice, Mr Abdel Bassit Sabdara, to abolish the cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment of flogging and to repeal laws discriminating against the rights women and girls.
Remember too Lubna Hussein’s outspoken supporter Amal Habbani, also a progressive journalist writing for an opposition newspaper, prosecuted for defamation.
Bonus link: Farah on freeing Angela Merkel’s cleavage