Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Implementation of Women’s Rights under Sharia/Customary Law in Nigeria

It is generally perceived that Islam does not protect the rights of women. This belief has in recent times been fuelled by cases such as the flogging of bariya Magazu convicted for adultery in Zamfara State and the death Sentence by stoning passed on Safiya Tudu by a Sharia Court in Sokoto for adultery Ref. SCA/GW/28/001
/SAFIA, HUSSUINI TUDU VS THE STATE as well as laws in some sharia operating states which bar women from boarding the same busses as men, utilizing the popular “Okada” means of Transport, etc. These lapses have largely been due to socialization and wrong application of sharia norms rather than by design. Examples Quaran 2:228 says that women have rights just as men do. The holy prophet said “O people you have certain rights with regards to your women but they also have rights over you. Quaran 33:35 states the equality of men and women before Allah.

Quaran 4:34 gives leadership role to men but Quaran 2:23623 the man to govern his home in mutual consultation with his wife and not in an overbearing manner. These provisions in the Quaran has not influenced the low stature of women in Sharia States. Women still remain in purdah and some cover their faces.

It is a ground for divorce under sharia for a man to assault his wife even though a man has the right to admonish his wife. The instrument used must be symbolic with a toothbrush or chewing stick and must not leave a mark on her body. Beating will be an example of injury and discord between husband and wife. She will need to prove assault by calling a witness. In a divorce granted under the condition, the woman does not need to return the gifts (or mahr) given to her in the course of the marriage. Sharia law allows the man to withdraw maintenance from the wife if she denies him sex but the law generally forbids marital rape.

A man has the right to correct his wife if necessary by beating under customary law. By Igbo custom, a man may chastise his wife for failing to perform her duties, laziness, wastefulness and destruction. By customary law, marriageable age is defined as the age of puberty and assumed to be 12 years for girls and 14 years for boys. In Eastern Nigeria marriageable age is set a t16 years of age. The penalty for violation is N200 fine or 6 months imprisonment. A woman is generally treated and regarded as property probably because the man pays dowry to marry a woman and refund of dowry is necessary for divorce under customary law.

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