UPDATE: Sudan: Flogging sentence dropped and fine paid against Hussein's will
Lubna Ahmad Hussein and 12 other women were arrested in Khartoum on July 3, 2009, when police forces stormed the restaurant and arrested women diners for wearing trousers. The women, some of whom come from Southern Sudan, were charged under article 152 (Indecent and Immoral Acts) of the 1991 Penal Code. Ten of the women pleaded guilty and have already received punishments of 10 lashes each (two of them under the age of 16), and charges were brought against three others, including Hussein. These actions of the ‘public order police’ (similar to the religious police in Saudi Arabia) systematically violate the human rights of Sudanese women.
Hussein brought the issue to the attention of the public, and distributed 500 invitations to journalists and friends to court proceedings on Wednesday 29 July, having explained in an interview with Al-Arabiyya TV, that she had given out the invitations because otherwise no one would believe that she was to be flogged for wearing ordinary clothes: "I wanted the punishment to be executed in the presence of observers, so that they see for themselves why I was being flogged."
As Lubna Ahmad Hussein works for the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS), the judge said at the hearing on 29 July that she had the choice either to accept immunity from the UN or to waive that and go on with the trial. Hussein said that she will resign from UNMIS so she will be dealt with as a Sudanese citizen. Hussein has chosen to use her particular case to challenge the constitutionality of the law and to highlight the growing number of cases of floggings of girls and women in Sudan.
Over the past 20 years Sudanese women- regardless of their race, religion, age or background- have suffered degrading treatment and humiliation under the public order code of 1996, which changed in 2009 to The Society Safety Code. The discriminatory laws against women embedded in Sudanese legislation contradict the declared government commitment to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed on 9 January 2005, and to the National Interim Constitution. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) – which Sudan acceded in 1986 – prohibits torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment such as flogging and protects women's rights to be free from discrimination based on sex.
The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People's Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, signed by Sudan on 30 June 2008, pledged to reform existing discriminatory laws and practices in order to promote and protect the rights of women. Furthermore, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by Sudan in 1979, clearly states that: ‘States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure that the child is protected against all forms of discrimination or punishment on the basis of the status, activities, expressed opinions, or beliefs of the child’s parents, legal guardians, or family members.’
Imposed dress-codes upon women, whether enforced by legal frameworks or non-state actors, are not only about clothing. Dress-codes speak to an underlying desire to control women’s bodies and autonomy, examples of which can be seen across regions and cultures. We urge your immediate attention to this extreme manifestation of controlling women’s bodies and autonomy through their clothing.