Back in October 2001, 35-year old Safiya Hussaini was condemned to
death, by stoning, for allegedly committing adultery. International outcry
led by Amnesty International (the Merton Amnesty Group campaigned for
Safiya - see campaign
archive) helped save her life; she was acquitted on technical grounds
by an appeal court.
Now 30-year old Amina Lawal (right) faces the same death sentence.
Amina Lawal was sentenced to death by stoning by a Regional Court in
Katsina State, Nigeria for having a child outside marriage. Her sentence
was announced on 23 March 2002, three days before the day of Safiya's
Amina Lawal's Case - Her Trial and Sentence
When unmarried, Amina became pregnant. Local villagers had her arrested
and she was brought before a Regional Court where she was charged with the
crime of adultery. Like Safiya, she had no legal representation and there
are serious questions about whether the nature of the charges was
adequately explained to her.
Under the Katsina regional law, admitting to having a baby amounts to a
confession to the crime of adultery. As in the case of Safiya Hussaini,
the man identified as Amina's partner - the alleged father of her baby
daughter - was released. The court said there was insufficient evidence
For him to be convicted, he must either confess, or 4 other men must
testify that they witnessed the adultery.
With the help of a Nigerian women's rights group, Amina has appealed
against the sentence. After several adjournments, the appeal was
rejected on Monday, August 19. A new appeal at a higher court has been
Victims of Poverty
Like Safiya, Amina comes from an impoverished background. Both were
married in their early teens (12 and 14 respectively) only to be divorced
at a later stage and left to raise their children by themselves.
The softly spoken and largely unschooled Lawal told AFP that her main
worries were the strain the case was putting on her parents and what would
happen to her baby daughter Wasila if she is put to death.
Women's and Human Rights organisations in Nigeria have already
highlighted the emerging pattern of people from poor backgrounds -
particularly women - being the victims of cruel, inhumane and
discriminatory sentences introduced by Regional laws in the states of
Amina's Fundamental Human Rights
In Nigeria, laws can be introduced by Regional States which may be
contrary to Federal Nigerian Law. Under the Regional Law of Katsina State,
a death sentence can be imposed on any man or woman who has sex outside of
Under Federal Nigerian law, Amina has the right to have her life and
personal dignity respected. This right is enshrined in the 1999 Nigerian
Constitution, which confirms the sanctity of human life. This right is
also recognised by all the international and regional human rights
declarations and conventions to which Nigeria is a signatory.
These cases created a political storm in Nigeria. The Nigerian Federal
Government recognises that laws which discriminate against women are
unacceptable, and that the death penalty is inhumane and inappropriate.
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