Pharyngula

Licentious pants

A Sudanese woman, Lubna Hussein, is facing the barbaric punishment of 40 lashes for a crime against public morality: wearing pants. Not not wearing pants, but wearing pants. She was busted in the act of wearing pants while having dinner at a nice restaurant in Khartoum. They were green. I’m sure those little details have got your imagination churning away now.

This is an interesting case, illustrating the way some people feel that social mores are a club to be used to smash individual freedom, and how women especially are targets for opression. Hussein’s ‘offense’ was so trivial, and her punishment so disproportionate, that it highlights the absurdity and criminality of the strict traditionalist position. The story also has a poll that brings up another interesting point:

Should the UN step in and protect this journalist, considering she works for them?

Yes, they need to protect her and stand up for woman’s rights. 81%

No, she broke the law of the country. It is not for the UN to solve. 16%
I’m not sure. 3%

There is an issue of cultural autonomy here — we have this kind of ‘prime directive’ mindset that we shouldn’t be imperialists disrupting different societies. It seems to me, though, that when we’re talking about large groups of human beings who are being consistently oppressed by a bizarre historical and partly biological quirk like patriarchy, perhaps we have an obligation to meddle.