Nigeria Death Penalty Seen Unfairly Targeting Women: Amnesty Report Says Islamic Law is Used to Target Women

Friday, July 23 2010

Nigeria Death Penalty Seen Unfairly Targeting Women: Amnesty Report Says Islamic Law is Used to Target Women

In a report released yesterday, Nigeria: The Death Penalty And Women Under The Nigerian Penal Systems, Amnesty International criticised the death penalty imposed under Nigerian constitutional and Islamic law for violating fundamental human rights and for being used against women in a discriminatory way.

The study found women's access to justice was curbed when they were indicted for capital offences, some of which are related to sexual behaviour. For example, abortion-related offences have "often" been characterized as "culpable homicide," which is punishable by death. Sex outside marriage is punishable by 100 lashes.

The report said: "By using the death penalty to regulate sexual behaviour, other rights are also being violated, such as the right to be free from discrimination, freedom of expression and association, and the right to privacy."

As of last July, there were a reported 487 people on death row, 11 of whom were women. Some of them had been awaiting trial for 10 years.

Masud Shadjareh of the London-based Islamic Human Rights Commission has said that amidst the corruption in Nigeria, the rich are using Sharia law to oppress and keep the poor people down whilst the rich live a life of luxury.

Amnesty International, which opposes capital punishment, has called on a Nigerian parliamentary group studying the country's death penalty to advise the government to: "Follow the international trend in abolishing the death penalty for all crimes once and for all."

The issue of women and the death penalty in Nigeria drew international attention last year with the widely publicized case of Amina Lawal, who was sentenced to death by stoning for having a child out of wedlock. Her sentence was overturned by an Islamic court in 2003.

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