Miss World contestants to boycott Nigeria

Independent (England), Aug. 29, 2002
By James Palmer

Miss World contestants have threatened to boycott the beauty contest in Nigeria later this year, to protest an Islamic sharia court’s ruling that a single mother must be stoned to death.

The beauty queens’ threat adds to a barrage of international calls for Nigeria to halt the execution of Amina Lawal, 30, who was sentenced to death in the country’s Muslim north in March for having a child out of wedlock.

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Ms Lawal is the second woman to be sentenced to death by stoning in Nigeria this year, and last week became the first to lose her appeal. But Nasir Lawal Bello, one of the judges who sentenced Ms Lawal in March, and Aliyu Abdullahi, one of the four judges who rejected her appeal, failed the sharia law commission test in in 1999.

Whether the revelation will help Ms Lawal’s next appeal at the Supreme Court, for which she has been given government lawyers, is doubtful. The secretary of state for the judicial services commission, Bashir Audi Kankara, said the screening exercise was flawed, and was disregarded.

President Olusegun Obasanjo can commute Ms Lawal’s sentence if she loses her second appeal. But he has not mentioned plans to do so. The beauty queen’s threat could provoke him into action.

Cancellation of the contest in November would be a severe blow to the pride of the west African nation. Miss Ivory Coast, Yannick Azebian, said: “If I’m chosen for this competition, I’m not going to Nigeria and I hope my decision will help save Amina Lawal.”

Miss Norway, Kathrine Soerland, has also threatened to pull out, saying the sentence was ”utterly revolting”. Miss Togo, Sandrine Agbopke, said: “Stoning this woman is not right. The authorities and all of society should rise up to end this sort of practice.”

Mexico’s President, Vicente Fox, is making Ms Lawal’s case a personal crusade and plans to visit Nigeria next month. Turkey, a secular but vastly Muslim state, wrote to Nigeria: “Stoning to death is a cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment and not applied in most Muslim countries.”

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