A FEMALE journalist who resigned from her prestigious job at
the United Nations so as to challenge a Sudanese law barring women from wearing
trousers has been placed on an indefinite travel ban by the country’s
authorities, writes Dennis Itumbi for journalism.co.za.

Giving up the UN job meant voluntarily giving up immunity from prosecution. Lubna Ahmed Hussein told journalism.co.za from Khartoum that she was notified of the ban as she prepared to board a plane to honour an invite by Middle East Broadcasting Channel (MBC) to discuss the issue.

Hussein was arrested at a restaurant with other women, and faces 40 lashes and a fine of 250 Sudanese pounds ($100) if found guilty.

Hussein said that the airport security officers took her passport and pulled her aside informing her that she is on a list of individuals not allowed to leave the country.

"I protested the move and still do, it’s a sign of fear by the government, they should face the facts of the case in court and let me enjoy my freedoms outside the court," Hussein argued.
She was given no explanation and her request for a written notification of the travel ban was turned down.

Her case has drawn intensive international attention and embarrassment to Khartoum as she publicly challenged the Sudanese authorities to carry out the flogging, saying it is a degradation to women in her country.

Last week a Sudanese court adjourned Hussein’s case to request an opinion from the foreign ministry on whether she enjoys immunity as UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) employee despite resigning from that post before the trial.

Hussein said she wants the penal code containing the “indecency” clothing provisions repealed.

French president Nicolas Sarkozy has told the leader of the French Communist Party, Marie-George Buffet, that he would support Hussein, praising her courage.

The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon also expressed “concern” over Hussein’s case.

Sudanese officials have criticized the media coverage of the case accusing unspecified parties of using it for political reasons.