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It is Sudanese law that is offensive, not women wearing trousers

Sudan should be seeking to foster and encourage the potential of its women, not punish journalists like Lubna Hussein for wearing trousers, argues Kate Allen.


By Kate Allen

Published: 11:34AM BST 08 Sep 2009

Comments 34 | Comment on this article


The case of Lubna Hussein was not just about the right to wear an ordinary garment worn by billions of people on the planet. The courageous Sudanese journalist was fighting against laws that objectify and seek to control women.


While the court’s decision to fine and not flog Hussein is not a victory for her, she has successfully exposed Sudan’s misogynistic record to international scrutiny. And she has repeatedly told journalists that "whatever happens I will continue to fight for women's rights. ” 

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Charges dropped against couple accused of Jersey child abuseDefying the Sudanese authorities to do their worst, Lubna succeeded in attracting international attention to highlight the grossly discriminatory nature of Sudan’s man-made and male-dominated laws. Along with 12 other women - and numerous women before them - Lubna was charged under Article 152 of Sudan’s 1991 Penal Code which states that “whoever ... wears an obscene outfit ... shall be punished with flogging which may not exceed 40 lashes or with fine, or with both”.

Sudanese law is wrong to impose restrictions of any kind on women on the basis of how they cover - or uncover - their legs, but to levy fines against this woman is utterly disgraceful.


Sadly Sudan has an inglorious record of disproportionate and discriminatory punishments. In 1999, eight female students in Sudan were arrested after going to a picnic with a group of men. The offences the girls were charged for included kissing each other, wearing trousers (again!), dancing with men, sitting with men and boys, and talking to them. As with Hussein, these picnicking female students were accused of being improperly dressed and of acting in an “immoral” manner. Convicted of “violating public order” contrary to Article 152, they were sentenced to fines and flogging. Despite the African Commission urging Sudan to amend this law, these cases keep coming, with visible and poor women like street vendors particularly likely to suffer.

However, a decade on, things may be at a crossroads. Ten women who were hauled out of the restaurant with Hussein two months ago have already been flogged and that, presumably, is how the Sudanese authorities like it. Apprehend, charge, sentence and punish. They seek a quick outcome and the ripple effect of a fresh round of draconian laws administered to cow women who hear about them. Yet, Hussein’s defiance has upset this cosy arrangement.

Sudan, a vast, diverse country that has seen horrendous conflict for years, should be seeking to foster and encourage the potential of its women - indeed there are specific UN Resolutions urging similar post-conflict countries to do exactly this. In essence, honouring its international obligations means abandoning the spiteful treatment of women like Hussein.


Hussein may now be imprisoned for a month after refusing to pay the fine but this, surely, is not the end of this matter. Amnesty continues to urge the Sudanese authorities to meet Hussein’s challenge head on, revoke article 152 of the penal code, put an end to discriminatory laws and end cruel punishments against women and men alike.

Kate Allen is Amnesty International's UK Director.

Sudan Get feed updatesPersonal View Get feed updatesComment Get feed updatesComments: 34



I hate to see what you've mentioned, men spreading their legs wide, but men at least have their legs covered which cannot be said about women wearing skirts. A trip in Moscow's tube guarantees some sights of that kind every now and then. I am not a prude, of course, but these can be eye-straining.

a Russian

on September 09, 2009

at 07:54 AM

Report this commentI look forward to a similar editorail from the telegraph in respect of Saudi Arabis , ops for got they are a partner in the fight against terrorism even as some of it theologically originates from ther - still it has more oil than Liibya and buys more UK arms


on September 09, 2009

at 07:11 AM

Report this commentMatt - It's all very well to call my comment 'nonsense' and claim that it borders on 'lunacy' but, sadly, your comment just amounts to immature name-calling since you haven't actually explained why you feel it amounts to 'nonsense' and 'lunacy'.


on September 08, 2009

at 10:55 PM

Report this commentDear Karen. You act like you're surprised to see this kind of behaviour coming from a muslim country... welcome to the world. It's like you were born yesterday. Whilst you are at it, are you also going to use your liberal convictions to change pakistan..iran..iraq..afghanistan..saudi arabia..oh and most importantly the radical factions of islam forming here in our very home - the U.K?

Angelica Knight

on September 08, 2009

at 10:37 PM

Report this commentI love the FACT that this whole debate is raging, only because Ms. Hussein took the determined decision to stand-up to junk-male domination as it exists in her native Sudan; which is not to say that it does not exist in other forms, elsewhere.


It would be pitiful if we were arguing about a matter where junk-male domination HAD prevailed, instead of - as I trust we are indeed doing, examining the ways and means of FURTHER liberating rubbishy male impulses, some fathoms up from within their current abysmally debased depths.



on September 08, 2009

at 07:45 PM

Report this commentI love the FACT that this whole debate is raging, only because Ms. Hussein took the determined decision to stand-up to junk-male domination as it exists in her native Sudan; which is not to say that it does not exist in other forms, elsewhere.


It would be pitiful if we were arguing about a matter where junk-male domination HAD prevailed, instead of - as I trust we are indeed doing, examining the ways and means of FURTHER liberating rubbishy male impulses, some fathoms up from within their current abyssmally debased depths.



on September 08, 2009

at 07:32 PM

Report this commentThis is the sort of regime Anjem Choudary, and his Sharia for the UK brigade want. The bleeding heart pinko politically correct appeasers, and the likes of Harridan Harperson, will be the first women in the burkha when or if they prevail.


on September 08, 2009

at 07:32 PM

Report this commentThe Sudanese - they are Moslems, aren't they...?

M P Jones

on September 08, 2009

at 07:07 PM

Report this commentBirch

on September 08, 2009

at 06:18 PM


There is a simple answer in that if Islamic countries want to live in the 7th Century and treat their women like dogs, then the simplest way to deal with it is don't allow them into the West. Simply tell them that if they want to even contemplate traveling to the west then they'd better shape up with their ideas. We have no right to impose our way of thinking on them but we certainly have the right to restrict them coming into our lands if they want to behave as they do. Shut them off from all western activity. End aid, finance, infrastructure help. Shut them out of the Olympics, football and other sporting meets. The people will soon get the message in that if they want to evolve with the world they'd better start seriously consider about changing their ways.


Terrorism will always pose a risk but to stop terrorism in the UK, then simply don't let the terrorists in. If they try to bomb you from the sky then shoot down the plane.

The problem arises when they are here and so if you let the cat in amongs the pigeons then you will have trouble.

We should bother more about our own country and its inhabitants before any other. We should not lower our societal level to inferior countries and cultures, they instead should rise up to our level.

Sadly though, where Islam is involved this is not possible. Any ideology that believes in divine law over man made law is going to be backward in its beliefs.

As I said, that's there problem and not ours and when the problem does become ours we solve it then. Who knows what the future is? Maybe walking nuclear bombs in suitcases isn't far off, but what I do know is that we have a choice and that is to deal with it when it happens or else let's all just blow up the possible threats now? Let's just get those Nukes flying and fry the Middle East why don't we?

We know that the latter is not a viable option and nor will it sort it out. What we do know though is that if there's a club (UK) with a doorman on who's too big to overthrow (our armed forces and defence) then you make a choice and that is to obey the rules or you're not getting in.


on September 08, 2009

at 07:00 PM

Report this commentSudan, what can I say? The evil of patriarchy at

it's best.


on September 08, 2009

at 07:00 PM

Report this commentwhere is annie lennox , bill bailey and other so called celebrities complaining in public at large about this?????. they were all crying over the death of hamas muslim fundamentalist terrorists earlier this year!!!!!

also where are they in relation to darfur

; christian persecution in ANY muslim country

ps sudan has nothing to do with us ; more concerned about growth of sharia law in uk over next few years; pps liked the trouser department joke a lot as well as the spandex one.. toodle pip old chap

steve ,salford

on September 08, 2009

at 06:42 PM

Report this commentHarbinger If you can find a way of shutting down travel without shutting down the global economy you are on.

There is the little issue of terrorism. Put Sudan terrorism 2009 in the browser of your choice. Quite a lot comes up from very reputable sources.

This episode shows the continuing risk Sudan poses to the civilized world.


on September 08, 2009

at 06:18 PM

Report this commentOh the joys of Islam .. More multiculturalism anyone? Lets hold hands and skip back to the stone age in the name of diversity ...


on September 08, 2009

at 05:49 PM

Report this commentIt is not specifically Islam but religion in general that seeks to justify arbitrary control of people according to its laws and to incite conflict with other religious groups.


on September 08, 2009

at 05:49 PM

Report this commentWhen oh when oh when are western journalists going to realise that what goes on outside Western civilisation is really no concern to us, unless that is it threatens the safety of our country?


This is the way people in Islamic countries behave. It is not our right or our say to attack the way others live. When the country's people get tired of their oppressive lives they'll revolt as has happened throughout time.


It is not our business to get involved and impose our democracy on Muslim nations that believe in divine law over man made law. This is the way they think and the way they live.


We should be more concerned with 85 Sharia law courts in the UK instead of Sudanese women in trousers quite frankly, but its the classic example that politicians and journalists always ignore the home front and look abroad when the heat's too hot in the kitchen.


Leave Sudan to the Sudanese and even better Afghanistan to the Afghans and bring our soldiers home!


on September 08, 2009

at 05:31 PM

Report this commentIf you don't like Sudanese law keep out of Sudan. Stay in England and write about something else. It's none of your damned business anyway. As to the 'something must be done' brigade - what exactly? Another armed invasion? Such pious, arrogant fools. Concentrate on getting Islam out of these islands and leave other countries alone.

Harold Stone

on September 08, 2009

at 05:15 PM

Report this commentEric West: 100%.


Articles like this are designed to "humanize" Islam, and deflect attention from real issues, - as you correctly notice, involving Islam's inhumanity.


This article is a part of Islamic propaganda, even if author doesn't realize it.


On subject - no I am not ready to sacrifice neither a penny of my tax, nor a micron of my freedom, no matter if women or men or camels trying to get privileges for my expense, wear jeans or not, or live in Sudan or whatever.


Publish this article in Sudanese newspaper.


No humanitarian aid for wearing trousers, never. Too easy.



on September 08, 2009

at 05:10 PM

Report this commentBecause Islam is a concocted religion cobbled together from Judaism and Christianity (and neither of them fully understood) and the various tribal religions of the sixth century it is governed by the understandings of that day. That is why Islamic countries all over the world are so poverty stricken and corrupt.


Get ready England we are on the way there!


on September 08, 2009

at 04:46 PM

Report this commentcan we amend this law for Britain... only flog women over 200 lbs who wear spandex pants??

simon dawson

on September 08, 2009

at 04:46 PM

Report this commentKate Allen's article is rendered effectively worthless by her cowardly refusal to name the problem at the core of this issue: Islam, and its code Sharia law. Until we face up to this, we will lose. Can you imagine anyone foolish enough to try to discuss the origins of WW2 without reference to Nazism?


on September 08, 2009

at 04:36 PM

Report this commentConversation at police party:


"I'm in narcotics, how about you?"

"I'm in the trouser department."


on September 08, 2009

at 04:32 PM

Report this commentWe cant say we weren't warned.


Its disgraceful in Sudan, as it is everywhere else.


Action sooner rather than later is required.


on September 08, 2009

at 04:21 PM

Report this comment"A russian


Every time I see a man with his legs spread wide "owning the space"

and flashing his crotch even covered in trouser, I wish someone had taught him mannners. The only time women are threatening is when they are covered from head to foot like black ghosts. The same cannot be said about men.


on September 08, 2009

at 04:19 PM

Report this commentForcing women to cover is exactly the same as forcing Jews to wear the yellow star in Hitlers Germany. It has the same results. These countries are frequently genocidal towards women and others at home and overseas.

It creates the "other" who must be violently controlled. The reason all this matters is not "wimmins rights". It matters because violent

societies like this generally export the conflict segregation perpetuates. It also reminds one

of apartheid "back of the bus" and no "blacks, women, Jews here".

Intelligent 1st world Muslims will say this is not Islam it is backwoods and backwards culture where the only power men are allowed to have is control over women. Makes them feel all that even though in truth it is a mirage of power.


on September 08, 2009

at 04:16 PM

Report this commentIn the days when we used to call the Sudanese fuzzy-wuzzies we weren't too liberal on the female trouser front, either. It's all such a rum do: a chap's eyes will tend to descend to the tightly clad lady's buttock, of course, but flogging her for inadvertently stimulating the old procreative instincts is a bit like whipping the sea for coming up the beach twice a day. Might I suggest the Sudanese go in for a bit of vigorous exercise and cold bathing? Might save them a lot of bother.


on September 08, 2009

at 04:16 PM

Report this commentThe law may be heinous and bigoted but if you know what is and then break it you will have consequences to face.


One supposes that a mass protest by women in Sudan might be one stance to remove laws directed at them, but as with other draconian things, some older, orthodox women will support the inbuilt male dominance of the religious legal system.


We are applying western values to other cultures in areas where they would find it hard to find them as their own. I advocate freedom in all things - because this is about control - but there is a mountain to climb here far higher than the clothing issue.



simon coulter

on September 08, 2009

at 03:56 PM

Report this commentBritain will need to cut spending when the economy fully recovers,

The case of Lubna Hussein was not just about the right to wear an ordinary garment worn by billions of people on the planet. The courageous Sudanese journalist was fighting against laws that objectify and seek to control women.

"To cut spending now would kill off the recovery. But when the recovery has been established, all countries must rebuild their fiscal strength," Darling said in a speech in Cardiff, Wales.

"Spending will have to be tighter everywhere -- all the more reason for ensuring that the frontline comes first."

Therefore, the Sudan is spending more on the Hijab.

UN fails to this Darling step in. What is wrong? The Muslims in the month of fasting are very lenient. They do listen with the feet in some places. Some are very good and realise the prisoners totally as they are afraid of Allah. But then we are talking about the UN lost case. Anything is possible, Sir, anything,

I thank you

Firozali A Mulla


Firozali A .Mulla

on September 08, 2009

at 03:20 PM

Report this commentI live in Moscow and each time when I see girls and even old broads with belly buttons, ass cracks or even pubic bones showing up from their trousers which seem to slide down from their hips permanently, suddenly these Sudanese chaps appear so amiable in their good intentions to keep society morale high. Flogging of females if prescribed by court, not a bad idea as well.

a Russian

on September 08, 2009

at 03:02 PM

Report this commentWatch out....with the influx of muslims here and their breeding habits it won't be long before women here won't be allowed to wear trousers (they will all be in burkas!)

A Patriot

on September 08, 2009

at 02:57 PM

Report this commentIf Kate Allen is going to oppose sharia law then shouldn't she start by opposing it within the UK?

Peter Welsh

on September 08, 2009

at 02:57 PM

Report this commentIt dismays me that Ms Allen studiously avoids reference to Islam. Sudan is not a bad country because of some racially inherent tendency to draconian measures, but because its government has chosen to adopt an extremist ('Islamist') form of Islam as the ideological basis of its rule. To over come this oppression (as in Iran, Afghanistan, Somalia, and elsewhere), we have to tackle Islamism head on. AI won't do this because it considers it politically incorrect to address problems inherent in Islam as a religion. That doesn't help anyone, least of all women like Ms Hussain.

Denis MacEoin

on September 08, 2009

at 02:56 PM

Report this commentKatie - Your comment is a load of nonsense, absolute nonsense. It borders on lunacy, but I suppose you are one of the institutionalized liberals we have in Britain now. I actually feel sorry for you.


on September 08, 2009

at 02:08 PM

Report this commentWhilst a woman won't receive 40 lashes or a prison sentence for wearing trousers in Britain, let's not also forget that under British sex discrimination law it's still entirely LEGAL for employers and education authorities, (still often male-dominated, patriarchal elites), to compel their female employees to wear skirts and their male employees to wear trousers.


The punishment in Britain for defying such gendered dress-codes is usually to be fired from one's job (denied a livelihood) or expelled from school (denied an education).


So, let's face it, when it comes to sexist dress code oppression, Britain's hardly perfect either, is it?


on September 08, 2009

at 01:27 PM

Report this commentSudan's government is one of the most repressive and nasty in the world. It is woefully corrupt, a sponsor of terrorism, a proponent of genocide. It's ongoing offensive in Darfur, about which our government remains strangely silent, has killed close on half a million people and tens of thousands of women have been raped.


Surely these are bigger issues than a woman in trousers?


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