Lubna Hussein takes on Sudanese trouser law.

// 4 August 2009

Lubna Hussein, a Sudanese journalist and former UN worker, is facing forty lashes for the crime of “indecent dressing”, or wearing trousers. Her trial was adjourned today in order that the judge could clarify whether her relationship with the UN would grant her impunity; she handed in her resignation so that she could face trial and try to change the law, but her resignation has not yet been accepted.

Lubna was arrested along with a dozen other trouser-wearing women on July 3. Ten of them accepted the punishment of ten lashes, including a teenage girl, but Lubna and two others did not, and so were brought to trial. She says in a Guardian interview that she is not afraid of being flogged:

“It is not for me. It is my chance to defend the women of Sudan. Women are often arrested and flogged because of what they wear. This has been happening for 20 years. Afterwards some of them don’t continue at high school or university, sometimes they don’t return to their family, and sometimes if the girls have a future husband, perhaps the relationship comes to an end.”

Her actions have already brought hope to women across the country, and she has received messages of support from around the world. Her bravery has helped the other women in her group deal with what happened:

“I talked to my colleagues in the court, the 10 who have already been flogged. At the beginning they were very sad, and one of them was in a bad psychological state. But when she saw me on TV and in the newspaper, she called me to say that this was good. In the beginning, her neighbours and her family didn’t believe she was flogged just for the clothes she was wearing. So she called me to say thank you.”

She also wishes to defend Islam and challenge what she sees as the continued misrepresentation and misinterpretation of her religion around the world:

“Islam does not say whether a woman can wear trousers or not. The clothes I was wearing when the police caught me – I pray in them. I pray to my God in them. And neither does Islam flog women because of what they wear. If any Muslim in the world says Islamic law or sharia law flogs women for their clothes, let them show me what the Qur’an or Prophet Muhammad said on that issue. There is nothing. It is not about religion, it is about men treating women badly.”


“The west really doesn’t understand Islam,” she says. “Because as Muslims we know that, if the police catch girls and arrest and flog them, we know this is not Islam. But when the government of Bashir does that, the west says: ‘Oh, that is Islam.’ It presents a bad face of Islam.”

She sent out 500 invitations to her trial today, and the court was flooded with well-wishers and women’s rights activists. Protesters outside the court, including women wearing trousers, were beaten and sprayed with tear gas by police; a clear sign that this law and the resulting trial are about reinforcing male control over women, not the cut of an individual’s clothes.

The trial will continue in September. What an inspirational woman.

Comments From You

sianmarie // Posted 4 August 2009 at 3:54 pm

brave and inspirational.

i hope her actions send out the message that we have to fight for women’s rights all over the world. no one deserves to be flogged, no one should have to endure such degradation and pain.

Alice // Posted 4 August 2009 at 4:04 pm

She’s extremely courageous, especially to choose to go through this when she doesn’t have to.

Hannah // Posted 4 August 2009 at 5:42 pm

It makes me think, if I was put in a similar situation, would I be that brave?

Troika21 // Posted 4 August 2009 at 9:06 pm

To be honnest, I think its a good thing when something like this happens.

It seems to be the only thing that can halt the nonsense of cultural relativism.

I wish it did not take the brutalisation of others to make this happen though.

Pour as much distain onto this hideous act as possible! (Not that it will change anything).

Kristin // Posted 5 August 2009 at 11:45 am

She is so brave. Terrible that this can still happen. And as Ms Hussein says, it’s not about religion, this is about men treating women badly. What are those men putting her on trial so afraid of? They are truly, deeply pathetic.

Is there anything we could do to show support for Ms Hussein?

This is feminism at the coal face, isn’t it? Certainly puts the ‘debate’ about shaving legs and it being okay to like pink and still be a feminist into stark perspective!

Lesley // Posted 5 August 2009 at 5:01 pm

Lubna Hussein is a tremendous inspiration. Her resistance has got the Sudenese authorities on the hope trying to defend what is an indefensible law . Her courage has given those women flogged and many many more courage to resist all systems of oppression. All power to her !

Sarah Whitaker // Posted 5 August 2009 at 6:53 pm

She is totally inspirational, and as I actually bought the Guardian that day I was able to see the article right away. I was absolutely inspired and overwhelmed. I can’t get over how brave she was, and her fight for equal rights it’s totally backed by so many men and women around the world. This woman is my hero!

Karen // Posted 5 August 2009 at 7:53 pm

May Lubna’s God give her the courage and strength that she needs to see this through. Absolutely appaling attitudes to women displayed again by a government using religion as a shield for their own nasty, contemptous ideas. Are there any petitions we can sign or anything else that we can do?

earwicga // Posted 9 August 2009 at 4:18 am

Lubna Hussein has a Facebook page with a lot of information.

earwicga // Posted 9 August 2009 at 6:14 am

Website with online petition can be found here

Karen // Posted 9 August 2009 at 7:14 pm

Hi Earwicga, signed it and sent it, thanks for providing the petition, hopefully we can acheive something and make some right come out of this wrong!

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