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Pants-Wearing Woman Challenges Sudan's Decency Law

Lubna Hussein says she'll take 40,000 whippings if it will change her government's human rights policies.

French president Nicolas Sarkozy has thrown in support for a Sudanese woman who faces 40 lashes for wearing pants in public, a display the Sudanese government says violates its Shari'ah-based laws on public decency.

"We will continue to work with [Lubna Hussein] to help in her struggle, which is the struggle of all women," Sarkozy wrote in a letter Thursday. Hussein, a journalist in her 30s working for the United Nations, was among 13 women, some of them Christians, arrested at a Khartoum restaurant July 3 for wearing pants.

Ten of the women were flogged and fined the next day, but Hussein and two others went to trial to challenge the law, in place since 1989, when President Omar al-Bashir instated a strict interpretation of Shari'ah. U.S. and international agencies have consistently ranked Sudan as one of the worst human-rights violators, particularly for its complicity in the ethnic cleansing in Darfur since 2003, and for its failure to uphold religious freedom.

After a protest on Tuesday outside a Khartoum courthouse where police fired tear gas at a crowd of about 100, Hussein told Associated Press she is "not afraid of flogging …. It's about changing the law," which she believes violates both Sudanese and Islamic law.

"If the [rulers] claim this is based on Islamic Shari'ah [law], can anyone show me a verse in the Qur'an or in the prophet's teachings that speak of flogging women because of their dress code?"

In June Sarkozy spoke out strongly against the wearing of burkas—a ...

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