Fact Sheet: Women's Rights Under Sharia in Northern Nigeria
August 22, 2002
Three years ago, a number of states in northern Nigeria began implementing laws based on an extremist interpretation of Sharia, or Islamic law, which considers sex out of wedlock a crime punishable by death.
Under this law, pregnancy is sufficient evidence to convict an unmarried woman of the crime. However, the oath of a man who denies having had sex with a woman out of wedlock is often considered sufficient proof of "innocence" unless four independent and reputable witnesses testify to seeing him take part in the act.
The following is a chronology of some of the actions taken in Nigeria under Sharia law:
- August 2000: Amina Abdullahi is sentenced to 100 lashes in the state of Zamfara for having premarital sex.
- November 2000: Attine Tanko, 18, is found guilty of having sex out of wedlock after the discovery that she was pregnant. Tanko's 23-year-old boyfriend, the father of the child, was also flogged 100 times and sentenced to jail time. The court ruled it would allow her to wean the baby for up to two years after she delivered before receiving the punishment of 100 lashes.
- January 2001: Bariya Ibrahim Magazu, 17, is lashed 100 strokes after authorities discover she conceived a child out of wedlock the previous year. The girl, who gave birth and was breast-feeding at the time of the caning, had no representation at the trial where she said she was impregnated by one of three middle-aged men with whom her father pressured her to have intercourse.
- October 2001: A court convicts Safiya Hussaini of adultery, a "crime" that, in the Sokoto state of Nigeria, comes with a sentence of death by stoning, because she became pregnant out of wedlock, even though the 35-year-old mother of five charged she was raped by a neighbor.
- March 2002: Safiya Hussaini is acquitted of charges of adultery. The Muslim appeals court overturns her conviction, stating that the law was not yet in effect when she become pregnant.
- March 2002: Amina Lawal Kurami is sentenced to death by stoning for bearing a child out of wedlock in Katsina, a state in northern Nigeria. The man she identified as the child's father denied the accusation and was acquitted for lack of evidence last spring.
- August 2002: Amina Lawal Kurami's appeal is denied. The judge said her sentence of death by stoning will be carried out as soon as Ms. Lawal weans her daughter from breast-feeding.
Human Rights Watch
National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty