30 Jul 2009

Sudanese journalist quits UN job to go on trial for wearing trousers

A female Sudanese journalist facing 40 lashes for wearing trousers in public told a packed Khartoum courtroom yesterday that she was resigning from a UN job that grants her immunity so that she could challenge the law on women's dress.

Lubna Hussein was among 13 women arrested on 3 July in a raid by members of the public order police force on a popular Khartoum cafe. The women were all wearing trousers, considered indecent under the strict interpretation of Islamic law adopted by Sudan's Islamic regime. All but three of the women were flogged at a police station two days later.

But Hussein and two other women decided to go to trial and Hussein invited human rights workers, western diplomats and fellow journalists to Wednesday's hearing. Some of her women friends arrived in court wearing trousers in a show of support.

"This is not a case about me wearing pants," said Hussein, who works in the media department of the UN mission in Sudan and contributes opinion pieces to a left-leaning Khartoum newspaper.