CSW - everyone free to believe


Christian woman forcibly married then raped after Shariah Law imposed in Nigeria

15 Nov 2002

November 15 2002

A Nigerian Christian girl whose father became a Muslim was raped after being forced to marry a Muslim.

Rakiya, 20, from Bilkawa in Kano State, has been a Christian for ten years, but her father converted to Islam five years ago. Since the introduction of Shari'ah Law in Kano State, he was told that his daughters could not remain Christians.

On two occasions Rakiya, along with her sister Dije, 19, fled from their father's home to the house of a Christian aunt, only returning on the agreement that they would not be forced to become Muslims.

In September 2001 both girls were summoned to meet Muslim authorities and were given the option of choosing Muslim husbands for themselves or being given in marriage to Muslims.

They refused and were moved to Kano, but later fled again to their aunt's house. Their father accused his Christian nephew and the church catechist of being responsible for his daughters' disappearance and the two men were arrested and charged with abduction.

The parish priest, Rev Isayaku Idi Kano and Canon Musa Haruna were charged with the same offence and all four were held in police custody for four days at the end of March 2002. Their case has gone to the High Court, but the cost to the church could be as high as 1.5 million Nira (around '7,600).

The girls were returned to their father, during which time Dije escaped. However Rakiya was forced to marry a Muslim and four men dragged her to her new husband's room where she was raped.

Advocacy officers from CSW have just returned from a fact finding visit to northern and central Nigeria where they discovered that the plight of the two sisters is not an unusual occurrence in areas that are predominantly Muslim. In an earlier case a female convert from Niger State was bound hand and foot in a Shari'ah Court, thrown into the boot of a vehicle and driven by her family to their home village where she was bound to a tree and publicly raped by a prospective Muslim suitor. The lady managed to escape and is now married to a Christian. However, she continues to be in fear for her life years after this event, as some members of her home village still vow to kill her if they see her.

The CSW team also discovered widespread suppression and violations of religious freedoms in Niger State. For example, the only Christian burial ground in the state capital, Minna, is full to overflowing, and grave sites are now being doubled up. However, Christians are denied land for a new burial site. Moreover churches are often denied both land for building new facilities, and permission for improving existing structures.

Further research uncovered evidence of orchestrated attacks on Christian settlements around Plateau State. These usually involve gangs of 300 to 600 well armed Islamic extremists, some from Niger and Chad, who embark on a spree of killing, looting and burning. The attacks appear to be part of a calculated attempt to alter the ethno-religious make up of the predominantly Christian state so as to facilitate Muslim dominance and the institution of Shari'ah Law in this key state in the Middlebelt.

Nigeria has seen an increase in interreligious violence since the northern states began to call for full Shari'ah Law in 1999. Many observers believe the Shari'ah campaign has been engineered by the Muslim northern power elite which had dominated Nigeria's political and military establishments since independence and which felt it had lost power to Christian President, Olusegun Obasanjo. So far over 6,000 people have died as a direct result of Shari'ah related clashes.

It is normally the poor and female who are worst affected by Shari'ah Law punishments as demonstrated by the case of Muslim Amina Lawal. She was sentenced to death for adultery in Katsina State and is due to be stoned to death once her baby is weaned.

Mervyn Thomas, Chief Executive of CSW said: "The spread of Shari'ah Law in the northern and central states of Nigeria has terrible human consequences for all, but particularly for those who are not Muslim.

"The forcible marriage and rape of Rakiya and the fear of her sister in hiding are due to a religious law being implemented on those over whom it should have no legal jurisdiction.

"We call on the Nigerian government to uphold the country's constitution and to prevent more injustice and inter-religious tension from spreading."



Sign up for updates on the work of CSW

* mandatory fields

By signing up you will receive news about CSW's work and how you can support it. You can unsubscribe at any time.

#2 CSW manifesto

We believe no one should suffer discrimination, harassment or persecution because of their beliefs