Wearing pants in public could land a famed Sudanese journalist 40 lashes for violating public morality, Al Arabiya TV said Tuesday, prompting the journalist to send out 500 invitations to her possible flogging in a bid to expose human rights violations.
Leftist Lubna al-Hussein, who works at the Sudanese newspaper al-Sahafa and with the U.N. mission in Sudan, could be sentenced to 40 lashes for dressing up "indecently."
On July 3 she was arrested with several other girls at a celebration hall that had 300-400 guests. "Two cops came in and asked all girls who wear pants to follow them to the police station," Hussein, who wears the hijab, head scarf, told Al Arabiya TV.
They took Hussein and another 12 girls, amongst them several Southern Sudanese, and 10 of them were instantaneously lashed 10 lashes at the police station.
The remaining girls, al-Hussein and another two, were referred to the court, but the trial date has not been set yet.
As for sending out invitations to her flogging in case she is found guilty, Hussein explained that no one will believe that such verdict could be passed because of normal clothes.
"I prefer the people to be present so they would know the reason why I am getting flogged. I want all supporters and detractors alike to see for themselves," Hussein said and added that witnessing her case will answer people's questions about why floggings take place.
In a statement posted on Facebook, Hussien thanked all those who showed solidarity and called for revising the law.
"This is not a personal issue. It concerns thousands of girls who get flogged for clothes and then become social outcasts because no one believes clothes are the reason behind this punishment."
Flogging, Hussein argued, constitutes "social execution" for both the girl and her family.
"The girl will be stigmatized for life and parents sometimes die of strokes or develop chronic diseases like hypertension or diabetes," Hussein said.
Article 152 of Sudan's penal code stipulates that any conduct or clothes in violation of public decency should be punished with 40 lashes. However the article is vague on what constitutes indecent clothing.
Women in Sudan enjoy a remarkable presence in public life, yet several laws are still regarded as repressive. Women's position in Sudan has been a source of controversy between conservatives who support the law's role in maintaining public decency and liberals who consider an infringement on human rights.
(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid).