Sudanese woman faces 40 lashes

Jul 30, 2009
Sophie Taylor

Lubna Hussein gives up UN protection to make a stand on behalf of Sudan's oppressed women

Lubna Hussein, a UN mission staffer and part-time journalist in Khartoum, stuck to her word and went before a Sudanese court yesterday to protest against the women's dress code imposed in Sudan under Sharia law. As a result, she takes the risk of receiving 40 lashes.

Hussein was one of 13 women arrested on July 3 in a police raid on a Khartoum cafe popular with foreigners and journalists. All of them were wearing trousers when the country's Islamic regime insists they should wear traditional garb, which involves covering their heads and shoulders and wearing a skirt or dress to cover the lower half.

Ten of the women arrested were given lashes at a police station two days later. But Hussein and two others chose to go to trial.

Hussein sent out invitations to human rights workers, foreign diplomats and fellow journalists inviting them to court yesterday where she announced that she was resigning from her UN job so that she could face trial.

This was because the local UN mission, in an effort to support her, had invoked a clause in an agreement which obliges the Sudanese authorities to ask permission before starting any legal proceedings against a UN staffer.

Hussein's lawyer, Nabil Adeeb, said the UN wanted to protect its staff, but Hussein was adamant that the trial should go ahead. "We have contradicting interests," he said.

Many of Hussein's women friends attended court yesterday in trousers as a gesture of support. The judge adjourned the hearing until August 4 to give Hussein time to leave her job.

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