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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Public Indecency

This report, from The Times talks to the Sudan and its current view on women and what they wear in public. 
Lubna Hussein is nothing if not brave. Arrested last month in a Khartoum café, the Sudanese United Nations official was accused, with 12 other women, of violating public decency by wearing trousers, and taken away to be flogged.  Ten of the other women submitted meekly to this arbitrary and barbaric sentence, received ten lashes at a police station and were ordered to pay a substantial fine.  Ms Hussein challenged the order, demanded a full trial and said that she was ready to receive not 40 but 40,000 lashes if the courts could prove that the sentence was not only constitutional but laid down in the Koran or the Hadith, the body of Muslim tradition and teachings.
However, this is about more than just one woman's insistence on the right to wear trousers in public.  There are larger diplomatic issues at stake.
Washington is seeking a modus vivendi with Khartoum in order to bolster the fragile peace agreement in the south and seek a way of bringing peace to Darfur, and an Administration official called last week for Sudan to be removed from the US terrorism blacklist.

All this could be jeopardised by a court ordering Ms Hussein to be flogged — a prospect that Ban Ki Moon, the UN Secretary-General, has called a violation of human rights standards. Her fight for women’s rights has alarmed the zealots and Islamists around Mr al-Bashir. But unless he curbs their malign influence, his chances of ending his country’s pariah status look bleak.
At this moment US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in Kenya.  Her remarks at the 8th Forum of the African Growth and Opportunity Act included these words:
We believe in Africa’s promise. We are committed to Africa’s future. And we will be partners with Africa’s people.  I hope all of you have had a chance to either see or read President Obama’s speech last month in Ghana.  He said there what we believe:  Progress in Africa requires partnerships built on shared responsibility.  The flip side of responsibility is opportunity – shared opportunity.  And that is what I wish to speak about this morning, how we can work together to help realize the God-given potential of 800 million people who make their homes and find their livelihoods in the valleys of the Great Rift, across the plains of the Serengeti, in vibrant urban centers from Nairobi to Johannesburg to Dakar, and why seizing the opportunities of Africa’s future matters not only to Africans, but to all of us.
I searched on Lubna Hussein's name on the DoS website, but got no hits.

Progress is made slowly and sometimes there are steps back rather than forward.  I hand it to Ms Hussein for being willing to stand up and be counted.  And I wish her good luck.

Hat tip to Person A, who knows who she is, if she reads this post.  To quote Person A:
This case, however, serves as a small example of what one person's defiance can signify.  It also reminds me that "we cannot want it more than they do," and that change is best an internal effort that other countries can choose to support or not.
Regards  —  Cliff

  If it was The New York Times, I would have said so.  Therefore, it is that London newspaper.
  In the past Sudanese women occupied positions in all professions and were relatively free, but this appears to be changing.

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