In Sudan, women who wear pants don't wear the pants, culturally speaking. In fact, sporting trousers can inspire the so-called public order police to violently remind the female sex of how little control they actually have: Thirteen women were arrested inside a cafe Friday in the capital of Khartoum for dressing in violation of the country's strict Islamic law and all but three were whipped for their scandalous display of slacks.
Lobna Ahmed al Hussein, a well-known female journalist, was one of the women who avoided the lashings, at least for now. She dared challenge the charges and now faces a trial and 40 lashings in public if convicted. Luckily, as a journalist, she knows how to work the press: She sent the media and her supporters thousands of invitations to her trial, according to the Los Angeles Times; if convicted, she plans to do the same for her public whipping. "Let the people see for themselves. It is not only my issue," she told the Associated Press. "This is retribution to thousands of girls who are facing flogging for the last 20 years because of wearing trousers."
Many of the women who failed to escape the flogging are from the Christian south, where pants are considered acceptable, and as such should receive leniency under an agreement that ended the north-south civil war -- that is, according to southerners. Obviously, the same view isn't held by officials in Khartoum, where women are forbidden from causing "public discomfort" through their dress. (Never mind the "public discomfort" caused by women being whipped before an audience.)
The cafe crackdown was unusual, particularly because it's a popular hangout for foreigners -- but, much like Saudi Arabia's religious police, northern Sudan's roaming public order force likes to mete out random and severe punishment for sartorial offenses; it's how they keep women on their toes.