Beyond the World news headlines
Sudan open to pressure over trousers, not war crimes
Back in December, 2007, Sudan’s legal system was a focus of international media attention because of a British schoolteacher jailed for insulting Islam by naming the class teddy bear Mohammad. In that instance the teacher, Gillian Gibons, was pardoned and returned to her home in Britain.
Today Sudan’s legal systems is making headlines again, this time over charges brought against a woman for wearing trousers. Lubna Hussein, a former journalist and U.N. press officer, faces 40 lashes in a case that has become a test of Sudan’s decency laws.
Again the authorities look as if they may be backing down. The case has been adjourned to Sept 7 while the judge checks with the United Nations whether Hussein has immunity.
Indecency cases are not uncommon in Sudan, where there is a large cultural gap between the mostly Muslim and Arab-oriented north and the mainly Christian south.
Hussein has attracted attention by publicizing her case, posing for photos in her loose green trousers and inviting journalists to campaign against dress codes sporadically imposed in the capital.
Her case has attracted widespread support among women’s groups in Khartoum. Dozens of supporters – men and women – rallied outside the court where she appeared on Tuesday.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said he is ‘deeply concerned’ by the case.
Why is it that Sudan seems sensitive to outside opinion on trousers and last year’s teddy bear case, but impervious to international pressure over the International Criminal Court’s indictment of Sudanese President Bashir on war crimes charges?