A PLEA from Mackie Blanton
As some of you may have heard, a Nigerian woman was recently sentenced to death--for having a child out of wedlock. Amina Lawal has been sentenced to death by STONING. She is to be buried up to her neck in the ground, after which her punishers will surround her and throw rocks at her head until her skull is crushed and she dies a painful and horrible death.
Surely, we must all feel equal shock and disgust at this sentence, and we need to remember that she has only thirty days to appeal her trial.
Please go to the Amnesty International site at
http://www.mertonai.org/amina/ and sign the letter addressed to the President of Nigeria. It literally takes only a minute, and could help to save her life, as well as help put an end to this kind of cruel and disgraceful judgment in a country that calls itself a democracy.
Societies that sanction to death women who have been raped, or abandonned by a lover, often view the man as the victim--as a victim to
women's wiles, as if men are driven beserk beyond their own moral control by the face or body of a woman. Such societies therefore reason that a woman's presence must be snuffed from the face of the earth. We must speak from our own moral outrage against such stupidity and ignorance.
Get the word out! Pass this on!
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 -
archive) helped save her life; she was acquitted on
technical grounds by an appeal court.
Now 30-year old Amina Lawal 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 acquittal.
Amina Lawal's Case - Her Trial and
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 against him.
For him to be convicted, he must either
confess, or four other men must testify that they witnessed the
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 lodged.
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 organizations 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 northern Nigeria.
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 marriage.
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 recognized
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 recognizes that laws
which discriminate against women are unacceptable, and that the
death penalty is inhumane and inappropriate.
A week before Safiya's acquittal the Federal
Minister of Justice wrote to Regional authorities to declare
that these penalties are a contravention of the Nigerian
However, the Nigerian Constitution also
protects individual States - such as Katsina State- from
interference by the Nigerian Federal Government. Leaders of the
Northern states have yet to respond in a positive manner to the
Federal government's declaration.
Early hopes that the close alliance between
Federal Government and the Governor of Katsina State would
result in a positive outcome for Amina were dashed recently. A
spokesperson for the Katsina State authorities, Ibrahim
Abdullahi, said that the Governor would not intefere in the
appeal process, and predicted that if the appeal was turned
down, Amina Lawal would be executed.
"If the appeal court confirms her as
guilty, she will be executed," he said.
This will entail burying Amina up to
her waist and stoning her until she is dead.
What can YOU do to help
At this critical stage, it is of crucial
importance to build on the successful campaign that saved Safiya.
It is vital that the Nigerian Federal
Government is given support to fulfill its human rights
People from all round the world can play
their part in encouraging Nigeria to do the right thing: to end
inhumane and cruel sentences in its territory and to ensure
human rights for all Nigerians.
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