“Whip me if you dare,” was Lubna Hussein’s defiant message to judges in Sudan, where the former journalist was arrested for the crime of wearing trousers. Hussein soon attracted international attention as a symbol of women’s oppression in countries with strict interpretations of Islamic law.
She was arrested at a restaurant in Khartoum in 2009 under restrictive decency laws, beaten in a police van and held with 12 other trouser-wearing women who had also been arrested. Ten of the women pleaded guilty and were given 10 lashes and fined, but Hussein asked to go to trial. As a press officer for the UN, she was offered immunity from prosecution but she resigned so that she could face the charge, inviting women’s rights campaigners, protesters and journalists to her trial – and where her sentence could be 40 lashes. “I am not afraid,” she said in an interview. “It is my chance to defend the women of Sudan.” Hussein was not sentenced to flogging, but was fined and briefly imprisoned when she refused to pay; other women who haven’t been given international attention have since been flogged under public decency laws. Despite death threats, Hussein continues to speak out about women’s rights in Sudan.