Ms. magazine  -- more than a magazine a movement

SIGN UP FOR MS. DIGEST, JOBS, NEWS AND ALERTS

FEMINIST WIRE NEWSBRIEFS

ABOUT
SEE CURRENT ISSUE
SHOP MS. STORE
MS. IN THE CLASSROOM
FEMINIST DAILY WIRE
FEMINIST RESOURCES
PRESS
JOBS AT MS.
READ BACK ISSUES
CONTACT
RSS (XML)
 
feminist wire | daily newsbriefs

July-03-01

Cruel and Unusual

On January 19, Bariya Ibrahima Magazu, of Zamfara state in northern Nigeria, received 100 lashes for being pregnant and unmarried. Magazu, who doesn’t know if she is 13 or 14, says she was raped by three married men. But she could not prove her case under the state’s recent adoption of Sha’ria, traditional Islamic law based on an interpretation of the Koran. Sha’ria requires any woman alleging rape to produce four upstanding Muslim men who witnessed the violation. But while “upstanding men” are unlikely to sit back and watch, the real problem is that most rapes aren’t committed in public.

The state court sentenced Magazu to 100 lashes for unlawful fornication (zina) and ordered another 80 lashes for her “false” accusations. Numerous appeals from human rights organizations resulted in the reduction of the sentence to 100 lashes.

In January 2000, Zamfara, an arid, semi-desert enclave in this oil-rich country, became the first of ten of Nigeria’s 19 northern states to extend Sha’ria from the civil to the criminal arena. This has resulted in the expansion of Islamic law from the personal realm of marriage, guardianship of children, and inheritance to so-called criminal matters like fornication and false accusation as well as theft and assault.

Versions of Sha’ria vary by state. In ultra-conservative Zamfara, the law is much more restrictive than in cosmopolitan Kano. In the Zamfara state capital of Gusau, a local official gave all unmarried women three months to either get married or lose their jobs. Though this dictate was never implemented, the incident is telling.

“The implication was that all non-married women are promiscuous at best, and prostitutes at worst,” says Ayesha Imam, head of BAOBAB for Women’s Human Rights, an activist group based in Lagos that fights for the rights of Nigerian women living under Muslim laws.

Chinonye Obiagwu admits that he and other activists are not expecting to abolish Sha’ria, only to ensure that it doesn’t violate the constitution’s equal rights provisions. “We are trying to sanitize Sha’ria,” he says. “We have no hopes of abolishing it—that’s up to the politicians.” So far, the politicians aren’t budging. Partially because they have the support of many, including the reputed Federation of Muslim Women’s Associations of Nigeria, which essentially supports Sha’ria.

For Nigerian women living under these laws, there are few options, especially if they are married. “Because of women’s economic disempowerment, many women fully rely on their husbands,” says Obiagwu. “The majority of Muslim women simply have to live with these laws. If they protest, they will be detained or killed.” Some unmarried women have been fleeing to the Christian South, but this migration has only been a trickle. “It’s really the poor Nigerian Muslim women who have been most affected by the passage of Sha’ria,” says Annie Brisibe, president of Niger Delta Women for Justice, a rural women’s empowerment organization based in the South. “They have nowhere to turn. Wealthy women don’t understand their concerns, and the government refuses to act because of the country’s Christian/Muslim divide.”

Meanwhile, President Obasanjo has been unwilling to speak out against Sha’ria or propose that its constitutionality be resolved in the courts. A born-again Christian and the first southerner to be elected president in 40 years, the president does not want to incite violence by taking a stand that some may see as anti-Muslim.

But for activists like Ayesha Imam of BAOBAB, discouragement is not in the cards. Imam was once shouted down at a seminar by male Muslims, who stormed the event in droves. But nothing prepared her

Media Resources: MsMagazine


© Feminist Majority Foundation, publisher of Ms. magazine

If you liked this story, consider making a tax-deductible donation to support Ms. magazine.

 

 

Send to a Friend
Their
Your
Comments
(optional)


More Feminist News

11/21/2014 STATEMENT: Feminist Majority Foundation Applauds President's Executive Order on Immigration - Statement from Eleanor Smeal, Feminist Majority Foundation president: "The Feminist Majority Foundation applauds President Obama for taking much needed executive action to help fix our broken immigration system that has for too long torn hardworking families apart. . . .
 
11/21/2014 Fifth Circuit Court Refuses to Reconsider Ruling Blocking Mississippi TRAP Law - The full US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on Thursday refused to reconsider a panel decision blocking enforcement of a Mississippi law that threatened to close the last remaining abortion clinic in the state. In July, a panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a preliminary injunction against a Mississippi TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) law requiring abortion providers to obtain admitting privileges at local hospitals. . . .
 
11/21/2014 UN Expert Calls for Action To End Violence Against Women in Afghanistan - United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women Rashida Manjoo returned last week from a nine-day official visit in Afghanistan with a call to the Afghan Government and the international community to continue its focus on creating sustainable solutions to reduce violence against women. This was Manjoo's third visit to Afghanistan, and the Special Rapporteur noted many positive developments since her travel to the country in 1999, during the Taliban regime, and in 2005. In particular, Manjoo cited the creation of the Elimination of Violence Against Women Law (EVAW) by presidential decree in 2009 as "a key step towards the elimination of violence against women and girls."EVAW criminalizes 22 acts of violence against women - including rape, child and forced marriage, domestic violence, trafficking, and forced self-immolation - and specifies punishment for perpetrators. . . .