Sudan 'pants' woman refuses to be silenced, even after escaping the lash

A court in Sudan today decided not to give Lubna Hussein the maximum penalty of 40 lashes for her crime of wearing pants.

Abd Raouf/AP
Sudanese journalist and UN staffer Lubna Hussein, wearing the same trousers that had sparked her arrest.

Sudan's Islamist regime just may have picked the wrong woman to mess with.

Since she was arrested in July along with 12 other Sudanese women who dared to violate the Islamist regime's vague and sporadically enforced decency laws, Lubna Hussein has been nothing but trouble.

Today, in a fit of leniency, a court in Sudan decided not to give Ms. Hussein the maximum penalty of 40 lashes for her crime of wearing pants. (Yes, wearing pants. The regime considers it un-Islamic and degrading for Arab Sudanese women to wear trousers. Foreigners and non-Muslim Sudanese are exempt.)

Instead, Ms. Hussein will be forced to pay the equivalent of about $200 – or face jail time.

But the feisty Hussein so far refuses to pay a single Sudanese dinar (70 cents). "I'd rather go to prison," Hussein told Agence France-Presse by telephone.

Hussein's defiance

This defiance is a pattern for her, the woman who would not go quietly.

As the Monitor pointed out last month, Hussein refused to be silenced when she was blacklisted and prevented from traveling abroad last month.

“If the intent is to prevent me from speaking or censor my words … they are then naive, because I can speak on the phone, through satellite, anytime,” Hussein said at the time.

We'll see how her refusal to pay the fine goes. Sudanese authorites normally aren't known for their lenience, but Hussein's case has gotten lots of foreign attention. And dozens of women — many wearing pants — gathered in front of the courthouse Monday.

It's difficult to imagine that the uproar is not playing a role in how authorities move to quell the issue.

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