Home | Comment & Analysis    Tuesday 8 September 2009

Turning the clock back in Sudan – Lubna’s case


By Ahmed Elzobier

September 7, 2009 — It seems Muslim women are wearing both too much and too little, a paradoxical symbol of our time. They can be lashed in Sudan, banned from university in Turkey, expelled from state schools in England and France.

While the worldwide media focus on Lubna’s case and there are protestors in the streets of Khartoum, the public order police appear indifferent as they go about their work in the streets of the city. They keep arresting young Sudanese women because they are wearing trousers or dressed “indecently”, the women are taken to the court and instantly receive forty lashes. Indeed, over 43,000 women have been arrested under the provision of article 152 in 2008, according to the director of public order law.

Why is flogging considered humiliating now? There are good reasons for that. In history the practice was certainly present in earlier civilizations, being used in Greece, Rome, and Egypt for both judicial and educational discipline. In the Roman Empire, the maximum penalty allowed by law was 40 lashes. In the Islamic world, God apparently instructed men in the Qur’an, (An-Nisa – verse 34), how to treat their wives, especially those who dared to disobey them – they should be admonished, beaten and sent to a separate bed. To this day some men take that instruction literally.

Currently out of the 192 United Nations (UN) member states, corporal punishment which includes the flogging of women is only practiced in Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Yemen, Malaysia, Iran and Sudan. In Sudan, the word flogging was mentioned more than twenty five times in the penal code of 1991. Article 152 of the Sudanese Penal Code 1991 states clearly that: “Whoever does in a public place an indecent act… or wears an obscene outfit… shall be punished with flogging which may not exceed forty lashes. or with a fine or with both….”. Of course, since 1989 Sudan has decidedly joined a minority group of countries that seems at odds with the modern world.

However, throughout history flogging has also been a terrible symbol of slavery, and women in the above mentioned countries are in state of servitude. To subdue their “stubborn pride”, as one slave woman wrote, flogging seems to be the panacea that their masters envisaged.

In Sudan, for the ever elusive and increasingly pragmatic National Congress Party (NCP), the arguments are not even religious, it is all about the overt challenge to their power. The NCP say that the growing national and international attention to the case is politically motivated. Meanwhile, in a workshop organized by a group named the Purification of Society in Khartoum, which is associated with the ruling party, the participants requested much harsher punishment for public indecency, and accused unidentified foreign elements of spreading immorality among young people. Of course such individuals are impervious to self doubt or criticism.

It seems that extreme sexual obsession and extreme religious views are somehow interrelated and in the case of the Islamist the connection is more obvious. The men who framed such laws are, at best, misogynist, or worse, secretly active sex predators. They imagine any female body as simply a source of sexual thrills, classified, catalogued and designed only for men’s pleasure. A woman is merely a body, and a body that is so intimidating that it needs to be hidden, covered and tucked away under masses of clothing.

It’s a forgone conclusion that the first casualty in any society unfortunate enough to be ruled by Islamic Fundamentalists, is the women. Now in Sudan, to counteract such thinking and sinister scheming, women activists in Khartoum have come up with a daring slogan, “Better be dead than oppressed”.

Of the total Sudanese population of 38 million citizens, women, of course, account for half. Notwithstanding their active role in the society, their socio-economic situation is still precarious. For decades they have remained marginalized both economically and socially, and sidelined in the political sphere.

By the 1960s Sudanese women constituted seven per cent of the official modern workforce. While most were nurses, secretaries and teachers, others gained posts as physicians, engineers, judges, lawyers, diplomats, journalists and university professors. The 1969 military government of Ja’afar Nimeiri agreed to put into practice the demands for equal pay and eight weeks’ maternity leave, as well as pensions.

The Sudanese women’s movement’s achievements of the 1950s, 60s and 70s suffered a considerable setback after the introduction of “sharia” law in September 1983. Then, after 1989, women’s rights entered its bleakest phase in the modern history of Sudan. The new regime banned political parties, trade unions and associations, as well as women’s organizations.

The “highlight” of this new phase was President Omar Hassan al-Bashir’s speech at a conference in January 1990 about “the ideal Sudanese woman” – in his view this ideal woman “takes care of herself, her children, her home, her reputation and her husband”. In November 1991 the government ordered all women in Sudan to wear the “hijab”. The 1991 Public Order Act, part of the regime’s new penal code, is framed so widely as to constitute harassment and public humiliation for women and enables their virtual exclusion from the male-dominated public sphere.

In fact all of the new legislation introduced by the regime invariable discriminates against women in Sudan. The family law introduced in 1991 reinforced male dominance over women. The right of women to travel freely has been greatly reduced and the right of a single woman to stay in a hotel is also prohibited.

What has taken place in the last 20 year in relation to the women of this country is unfathomable in its depravity. Unfortunately, most of these discriminatory laws and the law enforcement practices remain intact and are still occurring on a daily basis, in violation of the Interim Constitution of 2005. Lubna’s brave stand has highlighted just a segment of the web of draconian laws that are still embedded in our legal system.

However, the case has become an embarrassment for the Sudan government amid growing international attention. Many observers think the court might dismiss the charges on grounds of immunity as a “face saving” alternative for the government. But whatever the outcome the government has been stunned and shaken by the international and national reaction to the case.

In short, we need to ask ourselves much harder questions centered on the very essence of real equality. Morally speaking, Lubna’s case has revealed that there is something gravely hypocritical in our society when it openly imposes a set of criteria on women that men, by definition, do not require of themselves.

The author is a Sudan Tribune journalist. He can be reached at ahmed.elzobir@gmail.com

The views expressed in the 'Comment and Analysis' section are solely the opinions of the writers. The veracity of any claims made are the responsibility of the author not Sudan Tribune.

If you want to submit an opinion piece or an analysis please email it to comment@sudantribune.com

Sudan Tribune reserves the right to edit articles before publication. Please include your full name, relevant personal information and political affiliations.
Comments on the Sudan Tribune website must abide by the following rules. Contravention of these rules will lead to the user losing their Sudan Tribune account with immediate effect.

- No inciting violence
- No inappropriate or offensive language
- No racism, tribalism or sectarianism
- No inappropriate or derogatory remarks
- No deviation from the topic of the article
- No advertising, spamming or links
- No incomprehensible comments

Due to the unprecedented amount of racist and offensive language on the site, Sudan Tribune tries to vet all comments on the site.

There is now also a limit of 400 words per comment. If you want to express yourself in more detail than this allows, please e-mail your comment as an article to comment@sudantribune.com

Kind regards,

The Sudan Tribune editorial team.
  • 8 September 2009 08:08, by murlescrewed

    These are primitive laws enacted by NCP just maintain unnecessary control over women. If these laws work, why is Sudan and those countries mentioned still not developed as those in the West?

    I support Ms Husein fight to overturn unjust laws.

    repondre message

  • 8 September 2009 10:44, by Akol Liai Mager

    Women’s Uprisings in Arab and Islamic world do not survive because they are being enlaved by men and their little attempts to stand up for their rights are brutally crushed by police and military force.

    The most regretable thing for abuses of women is the fact that they don’t get necessary supports from international community to regain their rights.

    The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia promptly brought down Saudi’s women peaceful demonstration towards the ministry of Defence in Ryadth 18 years ago.

    Those Saudi women were protesting against the present of 68% Western females Jet Fighters Pilots, Tanks and Armours vehicle drivers amongst International Coalation Forces invited by the Kindom’s King to protect the Kindom from Saddam Hussein a move Saudi women called it that time as an insult to Saudi women.

    The innocent women were brutally beaten by the Saudi’s Islamic Law Guardian Police (ILP) similar to Sudan current POP.

    The Saudi women were demanding their rights to military services to defend their Kingdom and their King something misunderstood by ILP and called it a dangerous move by ILP bosses. The facts gone missing in the ILP minds that time were; the ILP as well as the military failed to protect the Kingdom from the Mad man who possesed man and man-made guns, not Angels, the King did not have trust the police and military, or the King was terrified by the fall of Emirate of Kuwait to Saddam’s invading armies in less than four hours. The international community just as in Lubna’s Troussers case turned blind eyes to ILP beating poor women.

    Now, the same history of Saudi Uprising has repeated itself in Sudan and the poor girls and women have to apologise for testing inhumane laws. When will world stand together against inhumane treatment of women in Islamic world?

    repondre message

    • 8 September 2009 14:29, by Lokorai

      If there is anyone that deserves to be called Uztaz its this Akol! I like part six of before his last paragraph. Educate them and everyone else, because you followed things so keenly.

      Be well Uztaz Akol Liai!


      repondre message

  • 8 September 2009 12:32, by Johnny

    I feel shy and ashame while watching Lubna’s case on TV today, most of the people here in Australia don’t know the Sudanese differences. this is the day the news of trouser has rocked Australia.

    very embarrassing

    repondre message

    • 8 September 2009 18:05, by Luthern King

      I feld sorry and share Lubna is humiliation that she got from police.
      Arab treated there wives if the are not human like them
      sheme on you.the reason you put her in codition maybe polically isue .May the Lubna endure and she be set free by
      G od .
      However,any one put in the custody for wrong reason may befamou

      repondre message

      • 8 September 2009 19:10, by James Okuk Solomon

        I thought Lubna was doing her best to face the unjust laws against women in the Sudan and then change them for better. Also, I think the Islamic Judges in Khartoum are not being fair in applying that unjust laws on Lubna.

        If the article of that unjust law says that any woman caught by Public Order Police (POP) wearing "indecent clothing" should be fined with equivalent of $200 and whipped with 40 lashes why partial exception for Lubna. She should have been lashed too and not given a fine only. What is $200 for a UN employee like Luba; she can pay it instantly and go back to wear a trouser.

        What should have been serious is the 40 lashes so that this could have been a good recorded history with scars on her back in future like what has been done to the poor South Sudanese ladies who were caught with her. By escaping the lashes, Lubna has become a fake struggler against unjust laws against women in the Sudan now.

        I am withdrawing my admiration of her courage. She betrayed the struggle by escaping the hot hippo whip from court police in Khartoum. She has betrayed her other women colleagues who got lashed and fined because of the same charges. She has lost the history for the future.

        repondre message

The following ads are provided by Google. SudanTribune has no authority on it.

Sudan Tribune

Promote your Page too

Latest Comments & Analysis

Perspectives on Kiir and Machar meeting 2018-06-20 22:48:12 By Santino Ayual Bol IGAD which has been facilitating and mediating the slow-heel Agreement to Resolve the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan shortly abbreviated as ARCISS has unilaterally (...)

SLM’s al-Nur’s response to Troika countries about violence in Darfur 2018-06-20 22:02:28 Response by the Sudan Liberation Movement to statement by the United States, United Kingdom & Kingdom Of Norway on cessation of violence in Darfur By Abdul Wahid al-Nur Dear President (...)

Another electoral farce Sudanese should expect in 2020 2018-06-18 02:08:16 Sudanese Elections Scheduled for 2020 will be Fraught with Dangers andCounterfeiting like its predecessors By Mahmoud A. Suleiman The National Congress Party (NCP) regime’s Elections Scheduled (...)


Latest Press Releases

The Suspension of Hurriyat Online Newspaper 2018-04-29 07:04:37 Sudan Democracy First Group 28 April 2018 The Sudanese civil and political circles and those concerned with Sudan were shocked by the news that the management of Hurriyat online newspaper has (...)

Petition on the Deteriorating Human Rights and Humanitarian Situation in Sudan 2018-04-22 10:01:20 UN Secretary-General, New York African Union Commission, Addis Ababa UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Geneva Petition on the Deteriorating Human Rights and Humanitarian Situation in Sudan (...)

Abyei celebrates Mine Awareness Day 2018-04-05 08:52:03 4 April 2018 | Abyei - The United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) and the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) commemorated the International Day for Mine Awareness and (...)


Copyright © 2003-2018 SudanTribune - All rights reserved.