Kouchner praises Sudan woman who fought trouser law

25th November 2009, Comments 0 comments

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner has praised Sudanese activist-journalist Lubna Ahmed Hussein for her courage in fighting a Khartoum law punishing women who wear trousers.

PARIS - Welcoming Hussein to Paris, Kouchner said she had displayed "the courage to be steadfast in her revolt so that women will not be arrested and flogged".

"This was a very good struggle and very important one for Arab women, for African women," he said.

Hussein faced 40 lashes for wearing trousers in public, but a Sudanese court in September ordered her to pay a fine, while 10 of the 12 other women arrested with her were lashed.

After she refused to pay the fine, Hussein served a day in jail.

Kouchner described Hussein as a "model" and lauded her "simple heroism".

"She had the courage to stand up to a law that is tied to Sharia," he added.

Kouchner recalled that 43,000 women were arrested in 2008 in the Khartoum region by police tasked with enforcing Sudan's laws on indecent clothing for women.

The Paris welcome for Hussein came as France was debating measures to prohibit women from wearing the full Islamic veil, which President Nicolas Sarkozy has said is a symbol of women's subservience.

Hussein told reporters that she had not fled Sudan to come to Paris and that the "constitution gives me certain rights including the right to travel."

She also took a swipe at Sudanese judges who told her that wearing trousers was banned by Sharia law. "I told them 'Show me the text that justifies this repression of women based on their clothing.'

"But no one was able to, because such a text does not exist. It only exists in their heads."

Sarkozy had taken a strong stand in support of the Sudanese journalist and women's rights activist, saying France "will continue to work with her to help in her struggle which is the struggle of all women."

Hussein was due later to hold talks with former president Jacques Chirac and the government minister responsible for families Nadine Moreno.


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