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Monday, 7 February, 2000, 09:49 GMT
Sharia state pays prostitutes to quit

By Nigeria correspondent Barnaby Phillips

The government of the Nigerian state of Zamfara says it is prepared to offer money to any woman who gives up prostitution.

The offer comes shortly after the northern state began to implement Sharia, or Islamic law.

Karima Sani, wife of the state governor, told a Nigerian newspaper that each woman who took this decision would receive 25,000 naira ($250).

She said 27 women had already taken advantage of the offer.

Sharia in Nigeria
Alcohol sales banned
Prostitution banned
Single-sex schools
Women-only taxis
No women's football
The Zamfara state government says the cash gifts are intended to help prostitutes abandon their profession and set up small-scale businesses instead.

The sum involved is equivalent to several months' salary for a typical Nigerian civil servant.

Prostitution has been officially banned in Zamfara for several months now, and many prostitutes are reported to have already moved to neighbouring states in northern Nigeria.

'Decent society'

The governor of Zamfara says the abolition of prostitution, along with a ban on the sale of alcohol, is an important element in his drive to create what he calls a decent society.

Muslim men at prayer Muslims in Zamfara have welcomed the introduction of Sharia
Several other measures affecting women have already been introduced in Zamfara. They are now encouraged to travel in special women-only taxis.

The state's sports commissioner says women are no longer allowed to play football.

Girls and boys have been separated into single-sex schools.

All these measures have been criticized by Nigerian Christians, who are a majority in the south of the country but only a small minority in Zamfara.

Christians say that Sharia will lead to the erosion of women's rights - but the Governor, Ahmed Sani, says it will help to protect their dignity.

To this end, he is also prepared to offer financial assistance to women who want to get married but cannot afford the cost of the wedding ceremony.

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See also:
27 Jan 00 |  Africa
The many faces of Sharia
20 Jan 00 |  From Our Own Correspondent
Islamic law raises tension in Nigeria
27 Jan 00 |  Africa
Nigerian Muslims welcome Sharia law
07 Jan 00 |  Africa
Nigerian state 'bans' women's football
18 Oct 99 |  Africa
Nigerian Christians challenge Sharia plan

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