Give new mom a break

Amina Lawal is a Nigerian woman who had a baby. Unfortunately, for her, she had a baby more than nine months after divorcing her husband. This would mean she had sex out of wedlock. A Muslim court in Nigeria says that this is wrong and that Lawal should be stoned to death.

The ruling by this court is just ridiculous. The only thing worse than this ruling would be if the government of Nigeria allows the sentence to be carried out. You can say that I’m being culturally insensitive and that I’m trying to inject Western standards on a different culture and stuff like that, but the gravity of this case outweighs any of that. They want this woman to have large rocks thrown at her until she is no longer alive. There is not even at least an appearance of equal treatment. The man that Lawal identified as the father was acquitted due to lack of evidence. Wouldn’t it be the height of irony for a man to be executed by an antediluvian method because of DNA testing? It is noble of him to stand idly by while this woman is sentenced to death for something he participated in.

The Nigerian government needs to step in. There is a secular, constitutional government that functions in this country. If it wants anyone to listen to it in the future, it needs to stop this. You can’t expect to be taken seriously if you won’t even attempt to stop an execution by a religious kangaroo court. Nigeria’s Justice Minister Kanu Agabi says the government is opposed to the death sentence. I suppose that’s a start. They need to enact legislation to prevent these kinds of sentences from being carried out. If these Islamic courts want to hand out the sentences, fine, but under no circumstances should they be binding. Keep them symbolic. They can even try to excommunicate her if they want. I don’t know if Islam has a measure for that kind of thing, but it’s an idea.

I know different places have different ideas of morality, but is out-of-wedlock sex really something you should be killed for? Of course it’s not. The death penalty should be reserved for people who have killed someone else. Did Amina Lawal kill anyone? No, she brought another life into the world. Would anybody even know what had transpired had she not given birth? Probably not. There was no harm done.

The court that handed down the death sentence has graciously decided to wait until early 2004 to carry it out so Lawal can finish breast-feeding her child. So, let it not be said that this court is completely heartless.

The bottom line is this: There is no good reason to execute this woman. Doing so would weaken the Nigerian government and give credence to an extremist group. Why am I calling it extremist? It’s willing to stone a woman to death for having sex outside of marriage. I consider that pretty extreme. I would hope that if this sentence is carried out, there are some negative consequences for the country of Nigeria. If these people think the greater good is served by executing this woman, then something is seriously wrong. Lawal might have committed a crime according to her religion, but putting her to death would be a crime against decency.

Chris Ricketts is a columnist for The