- A new controversial verdict of a Muslim Shari'a court is set to upset Nigerians. A father of three children is sentenced to death by stoning for having raped his 15-year-old stepdaughter. The young girl, who became pregnant, was also sentenced to 100 strokes of the cane.
The sentence, which was handed down on 29 December, was only today made public by the Nigerian public prosecutor today. The Islamic Curt of Alkaleri in the north-eastern Nigerian state of Bauchi was following the traditional Muslim law code (Shari'a) in its sentencing.
While the girl's step father during the court's proceedings confessed that he had raped the 15-year-old girl under his parental protection, the Alkaleri court nonetheless found the girl guilty of having sex outside marriage. Had the court found the act consensual, the girl should have been sentenced to death by stoning.
Since year 2000, a total of 12 Northern Nigerian predominantly Muslim states have introduced the Shari'a law code, which was written down some 14 centuries ago. The conservative practice of Northern Nigerian Shari'a courts has caused outrage among Southern Nigerians - in particular women - and the international community.
Several death-by-stoning sentences have been handed down in Northern Nigeria during the last four year, but few have been carried out. Shari'a appeal courts have turned over many of the harshest sentences.
This also included the infamous case of Amina Lawal, a woman sentenced to death by stoning for giving birth outside marriage while the father of the child was set free. After massive campaigns by Nigerian and international human rights activists and appeals from foreign governments, an appeal court in September finally quashed Ms Lawal's case.
It is uncertain whether the Alkaleri sentence has yet been appealed to a higher court. While the death sentence for the confessing stepfather is observed to be difficult to quash, pressure from national and international human rights groups may again achieve to stop the punishment of the raped girl.
The case of Ms Lawal mobilised a strong opposition to the Shari'a practice among Nigerians, in particular women's groups in the southern part of the federal country. While the Nigerian women's organisation Baobab still not has commented the Alkaleri case, it is seen to have the same potential for protests in Nigeria.
Amnesty International in cooperation with Baobab are currently campaigning to call for the abolition of what they call "discriminatory laws" in Nigeria. In particular, the groups oppose the criminalisation of consensual sexual activity between adults in private, but also the fact that women are receiving heavier sentences by Shari'a courts than men.
This new Shari'a sentencing was made known to the international community by a protest action from the women's group of South Africa's leading opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA). The DA women demand that the sentence against the 15-year-old rape victim is found null and void.
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