After years of pressure from women’s rights activists in the US and around the world, the White House has finallypaid lip service to the plight of women in Afghanistan-when it is politically expedient to do so. And now we turn toanother country that the US and its transnational corporations have major oil interests in. In a case that could beas damaging to Nigeria as the hanging of writer and environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, a Nigerian woman has beensentenced to death by stoning for the supposed crime of adultery. If her appeal does not go through, she will beburied to her waist in the sand and killed by public stoning with stones as big as fists.
Last October Safiya Hussaini, who is 35, was sentenced in a court in the Nigerian state of Sokoto, based on the wordof the father and her pregnancy. Initially Hussaini claimed she had been raped and was convicted under the mostsevere interpretation of Islamic sharia law. For a man to be convicted, he must confess or there must be witnesses.Hussaini’s alleged rapist was acquitted. Hussaini says it is because she is poor and a woman that she will beexecuted for having a child.
But in an appeal to the court yesterday, Hussaini said her baby, now 11 months old, was fathered by her formerhusband, not the married man who she says raped her. If she can prove it was not adultery, she could be acquitted,since having a husband’s child after divorce is not an offence under sharia law.
Husseini won a reprieve until March in her appeal yesterday, but international outrage over her case, and the moralpolice force in Nigeria, is growing. Over 75 members of the European parliament have urgently petitioned the NigerianPresident, Olusegun Obasanjo, to stop the execution, calling the punishment "inhuman, barbaric and cruel". AlthoughNigeria has inflicted harsh sharia punishments, including hangings and amputations, nobody has yet been stoned todeath.
- Asma Abdel Halim, women’s rights activist and lawyer from Sudan.