On January 19, in oil-rich Nigeria, the most populous country on the continent of Africa, an Islamic Court in the north carried out a “Sharia” sentence of 100 lashes with a cane on 13-year old Bariya Ibrahim Magazu on charges of premarital sex (zina) and making “false” charges against the three men she claimed raped her. The punishment was executed despite an international outcry from women’s and human rights organizations that seemingly had won postponement and reduction of Bariya’s sentence.
In September 2000, 13 year-old Bariya Ibrahim Magazu was sentenced by an Islamic Court in the Nigerian state of Zamfara, one of the first states in Nigeria to accept Islamic Sharia law, to a flogging sentence of 180 lashes, via cane. Bariya was brought before the Islamic Court after it was discovered that she was pregnant and unmarried. During the trial, when asked the name of the father of the child, Bariya stated that she was “pressured” into having sex with three middle-aged men from her community. Women’s rights activists visited with the family of Bariya and discovered that these men were likely to be between the ages of 20 and 30 and married. Other unconfirmed reports indicate that Bariya’s own father had debts with each of the three men and therefore arranged for her (Bariya) to have sex with each of the men as a method of repaying the debt. Although the three men were indicated in the case, none were given a blood test to determine paternity.
The case of Bariya Ibrahim Magazu is yet another example of the constant violations against the human rights of women based on claims of following so-called cultural traditions and practice. The Feminist Majority Foundation condemns the flogging of Bariya Ibrahim Magazu. “Let the record speak the truth, this brutal flogging is an act right off the pages of the Dark Ages,” says Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Foundation. “Even at the start of the new millennium marking the world’s passage of another one thousand years, some in this world still believe that women do not hold inalienable human rights which are indeed the rights of women since the beginning of time,” exclaimed Smeal.
Officials in the northern Nigerian state of Zamfara claimed that the 13-year old “immediately after the punishment thanked Allah for having the punishment.” The Deputy Governor of Zamfara, Mahmoud Shinkafi reported that, “she walked home and when she got to her village she was very happy. The disgrace in public is what deters people. She will never be disgraced again…she has her whole dignity.”