Anger over adultery stoning case

Protesters call on the South African government to intervene in the case.

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Pressure is mounting on the Nigerian government to spare the life of a Muslim woman condemned to death by stoning for adultery.

An Islamic court in the northern Nigerian city of Katsina will next week rule on whether to acquit 31-year-old single mother Amina Lawal on charges of adultery, or uphold the sentence of death by stoning.

Protesters in South Africa and Nigeria have demanded a reversal of the decision first handed down in March last year and unsuccessfully appealed in August.

Lawal gave birth on January 6 last year, more than two years after her divorce but only six-and-a-half months after Katsina formally reinstituted Islamic Shariah law.

Hundreds of women demonstrated outside the Nigerian High Commission in the executive capital Pretoria, while hundreds more marched to parliament in Cape Town, where President Thabo Mbeki was questioned on the matter.

Mbeki has appealed to Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo to spare not only Lawal, but his new democracy, the blight of such a violent sentence.

“Certainly, we need to continue to make our voice heard about this issue but I would think the supreme court of Nigeria would be perfectly conscious of its obligations with the defence and protection of the rights of women,” Mbeki said.

In response to a question on the responsibility of the father of Lawal’s child, Mbeki replied: “In defence of Amina Lawal we might have forgotten that it takes two to make a baby,” reported Reuters news agency.

Should Nigerian law run its course, the supreme court — which was guided by the country’s bill of rights — would have to hear the case if the Shariah court in the north of the country upheld the death sentence.

Nigerian journalist Okelo Madukaife told CNN he had faith in the legal system protecting Lawal.

“I don’t think at this point any human being will be stoned in Nigeria. The Supreme Laws of Nigeria doesn’t allow that,” he said.

South African protester Nomsa Makhaye echoed the sentiment of her president when she said to CNN, “It takes two to the tango, so why is it that just the woman must suffer?”

A delegation of South African women will travel to Nigeria to meet Lawal and legal representatives in a bid to save her from the death sentence.

“We are here to say women’s rights are human rights,” the deputy president of the Women’s League of the ruling African National Congress, Mavivi Myakayaka-Manzini, told protesters before handing a memorandum to ministers.

“Here in this country we have fought for that, but there still remain in many other countries on our continent of Africa where women still have to fight for dignity,” Reuters reported her as saying.

– CNN Johannesburg Bureau Chief Charlayne Hunter-Gault contributed to this report.

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