South African women marched through the streets Thursday demanding that a Nigerian court repeal a sentence on a woman condemned to death by stoning for bearing a child out of wedlock.
InsertArt(2019325)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.
A court in northern Nigeria is due to issue a judgment next week on the appeal of Amina Lawal, 31, who had a child 10 months after getting divorced and was sentenced to death under Muslim Sharia law for having sex outside marriage.
Thursday’s protests were the first of a series planned across South Africa by the Women’s League of the ruling African National Congress.
About 300 people, most of them women, braved driving rain to march to the Parliament building in Cape Town carrying posters saying “Taking the life of Amina Lawal means taking the livelihood of her child” and “Stop the Murder of Amina Lawal.”
“We are here to say women’s rights are human rights,” the league’s deputy president, Mavivi Myakayaka-Manzini, told protesters before handing a memorandum to ministers.
“Here in this country we have fought for that, but there still remain many other countries on our continent of Africa where women still have to fight for dignity.”
HIGH COURT MUST STILL RULE
Mbeki told Parliament that he raised the issue last week with Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, a key continental ally, and would continue to do so.
He said Nigerian law would have to run its course, and he pointed out that the Nigerian Supreme Court, which was guided by the country’s bill of rights, would have to hear the case should its Sharia court uphold the death 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 defense 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 defense of Amina Lawal, we might have forgotten that it takes two to make a baby.”
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