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In praise of Lubna Hussein

August 2, 2009

Guardian Editorial

It is so much easier to demand change from the outside than to challenge convention from within. Lubna Hussein was among a group of 13 Sudanese women arrested in a popular cafe in Khartoum for wearing trousers. All but three were flogged two days later, but Ms Hussein decided to have her day in court. She refused a plea bargain that would have limited her punishment to 10 lashes, and resigned from her job as a journalist working for the UN mission in Sudan, which would otherwise have granted her immunity from prosecution. She did so knowing that if she lost her case the penalty could be 40 lashes. She makes her stand not merely over the right for women to wear trousers or as a protest against a punishment she regards as an act of humiliation. She wants to annul the article of Sudanese law that addresses women’s dress code under the title of indecent acts. Sudan’s interpretation of Islamic law, she argues, is not just unconstitutional but un-Islamic. Sharia law is imperfectly enforced in Sudan, especially in its increasingly affluent and cosmopolitan capital. It is, however, used to crack the whip, making Islam a proxy for the regime’s authoritarianism. The government may well be embarrassed by Ms Hussein’s trial, as much as it is annoyed by her status as a cause celebre. Ms Hussein may not win her case, but in defeat she could prove stronger than in victory. Her example should be a spur to independent-minded women wherever they are in the world.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Polly Styrene permalink
    August 2, 2009 12:49

    Ooh look, a woman standing up for what she believes in, even at great personal risk – that’s what I call empowerment.

  2. August 3, 2009 00:59

    Yes, and there are two other women who have chosen to go to trial with her on Tuesday, rather than take the instant lashes and a fine. Most reports say she is more than likely to receive 40 lashes and a fine. Mad world!

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