Nigerian State Government Ignores Women’s Plea For Life

The government of the Katsina state in Nigeria will not stop an Islamic court’s sentence of death by stoning of Amina Lawal. Lawal now has to rely on her legal appeals due to the federal government’s refusal to go against the court. This decision was made despite the fact that the central government of Nigeria has voiced their opposition to the application of Islamic law, which calls for such punishments as the cutting off a hand for theft and death for committing adultery, and pledged their own lawyers to help Lawal in her upcoming appeals. “We are confident of the eventual triumph of the rule of law and the respect for human dignity and that [Lawal’s] appeal will be upheld in the Upper Courts,” wrote Nigerian Ambassador A. Agada in a statement to the Feminist Majority following a Aug. 29 protest against Lawal’s sentence led by the Feminist Majority and the Capital City National Organization of Women at the Nigerian Embassy in Washington, DC.

Lawal is the second Nigerian woman condemned to death by stoning for engaging in sex before marriage. The first woman, Safiya Hussaini, had her sentence overturned in March on her first appeal. The government of Rome, Italy recently granted Hussaini honorary citizenship to symbolically put an end to the death penalty as well as a means of respecting women’s rights. After giving birth to a child outside of marriage, Lawal was found guilty of sex out of wedlock in October 2001. After a lower Islamic court in the Katsina state rejected Lawal’s appeal to the death by stoning sentence, Lawal’s lawyers will next appeal her case to higher Islamic court and possibly to the Supreme Court.

Human rights activists are stunned because of the Katsina state government’s decision to not intervene in this case. Organizers of the Miss World Pageant are also dismayed because they hoped this issue would be settled before the pageant took place in Nigeria this November. Several contestants, including Ms. France and Ms. Belgium, have pulled out of the contest in protest against the harsh death sentence imposed on Lawal.

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Reuters 9/10/02; Lagos 9/7/02; Associated Press 9/10/02; Feminist News 8/26/2002

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