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Last Updated: Saturday, 28 April 2007, 17:22 GMT 18:22 UK
Nigeria 'lesbian wedding' denied
A picture of Aunty Maiduguri from a leaflet given to guests

A Nigerian woman reported to have "married" four women last weekend in Kano State has denied the allegations.

Aunty Maiduguri told the BBC the reports of her wedding were false, and that she was not a lesbian.

She had gone to the police and lawyers and would take the case to court in an effort to clear her name, she said.

Under Sharia law, adopted in the state seven years ago, homosexuality and same-sex marriages are outlawed and considered very serious offences.

Lesbianism is also illegal under Nigeria's national penal code.

'A lie'

Aunty Maiduguri insisted she "never practised" lesbianism.

"It's a lie, it's unbelievable. I have never in my life seen where a lady can marry four ladies at one time.

"I have never practised - never heard the word 'lesbian' - truly," she told the BBC in Kano.

She said the elaborate wedding celebration held on Sunday was actually a ceremony to raise money for the women's weddings to men.

She said: "One of them gets a husband to marry so I organised in order to get something sorted."

The theatre where the ceremony took place has since been demolished by Kano city's authorities.

Eyewitnesses said there was a large turnout and guests were given leaflets as a souvenir showing Aunty Maiduguri surrounded by her "brides".

But she said the words on the pamphlets meant "love and understanding".

"They are my sisters, what will I put apart from love and understanding or love and kindness?"

Aunty Maiduguri said she was willing to challenge Kano's Hisbah board, which uses volunteers to enforce Islamic rule.

"I am ever ready to fight the director of that Hisbah," she said.

Aunty Maiduguri and the four other women went into hiding after religious police issued warrants against them.

Punishment

All five women are believed to be film actresses in the local home-video industry, and said to be born Muslims, otherwise they would not be covered by Sharia law.

Nigeria's parliament is considering tightening its laws on homosexuality.

Islam says a man can take up to four wives if he is able to support them.

"As defenders of the Sharia laws, we shall not allow this unhealthy development to take root in the state," the Hisbah's deputy commander Ustaz Abubakar Rabo told Nigeria's This Day newspaper.

Mr Rabo told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme that if the women were found guilty of lesbianism they faced one of two punishments.

For a married woman the offence would be considered adultery for which the punishment is death by stoning. A single woman would be caned.

A Kano police spokesman told the BBC that his officers were not actively looking for the women, but would arrest them if need be.


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Aunty Maiduguri denies she is a lesbian



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