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Thursday, 14 September, 2000, 11:13 GMT 12:13 UK
Sharia sentence for pregnant teenager

A pregnant 17-year-old girl has been sentenced to 180 lashes by an Islamic court in the northern Nigerian state of Zamfara.

Since Nigeria returned to civilian rule last year, eight northern states have introduced Islamic law, known as Sharia.

Zamfara was the first state to do so in January, and has been the most active in prosecuting the code.

Bariya Ibrahim Magazu was found guilty last week by one of the new Islamic courts in the state of having had sex outside marriage, and of accusing three men of having slept with her without proof.

Due date

The girl, who is being looked after by her parents, will be publicly flogged 40 days after the delivery of the baby, the judge said.

Sharia provisions
Based on the Koran
Provides an overall ethical framework for Muslims
Includes prayers, fasting, charity - as well as a legal code
Women should veil themselves
Physical punishment for crimes - including amputation, flogging, stoning
Police in her village reported the unmarried girl to the courts after seeing that she was several months pregnant.

When asked by the court to identify the father, she named three middle-aged famers in her village as possible fathers, but several witnesses were unable to confirm her claim.

As a result, the judge last week sentenced the girl to receive 100 lashes for engaging in pre-marital sex and 80 lashes for making unsubstantiated claims against the three men.

Divisions

In August, two motorcycle taxi riders in Zamfara were lashed in punishment for carrying female Muslim passengers.

Muslim girl
The spread of Sharia divides opinions
The divisions which Sharia has opened up have provided Nigeria's new democratic government with one of its most difficult challenges.

Correspondents say the issue has polarised opinion in Nigeria, where it is opposed by the predominantly Christian south.

Muslims in northern Nigeria feel strongly that Sharia has been misunderstood by Christians, who have tended to concentrate on the punishments.

But it also has massive popular appeal to those who believe it will help root out corruption and restore moral values.

Critics say public floggings for pre-marital sex violate the constitution and are an infringement of human rights.

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See also:

10 Aug 00 | Africa
Sharia beating for motorcyclists
21 Jun 00 | Africa
Analysis: Sharia takes hold
25 May 00 | Africa
Kaduna settles down
21 Jun 00 | Africa
The many faces of Sharia
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