Nigerian Women’s Rights Bill Rejected By Sultan

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According the most senior Muslim cleric in Nigeria, the sultan of Sokoto, Mohamed Sa’ad Abubakar, new proposed legislation that aims to allow women a share in their family inheritance and give widows the right to custody of their children even if they remarry is banned by the Quran.

This reaction is in strong contrast to Nigeria’s other religious half, the Christians, which has embraced the proposed legislation.  While it’s unclear how many of Nigeria’s Muslims are against the bill, that number is sure to increase given the sultan’s religious status and influence.   

The sultan stated at a Quranic recitation ceremony in the northwestern state of Zamfara, “Our religion is total way of life.  Therefore, we will not accept any move to change what Allah permitted us to do.”

There is little doubt that positions like these work to prevent the legislation from being passed, which ultimately allows women to continue experiences the financial pressure that often causes them to join the Nigerian Islamic extremist group, Boko Haram.  

Recently, Boko Haram has begun recruiting women successfully, offering these women “financial empowerment”….if, of course, they marry a jihadist and agree to live under strict sharia law.  

The women also yearn to learn and accumulate knowledge, something else that Boko Haram appears to offer them.  According to a recent report published by The International Crisis Group (ICG), “The sect values Quranic education for women so they can take part in the religious community and obey its rules.  Some women joined because they found this attractive and were eager to ‘acquire knowledge, to memorise the Quran and to learn about Islam more deeply’ … [all] unique opportunities.”

A similar bill was proposed in Nigeria early last year and failed to pass due to its being perceived a incompatible with Nigerian culture and religious beliefs.

Bukky Shonibare, a human rights activist, said of the earlier bill’s rejection that it was a sad day for Nigerian women and showed “how backward we are.”    


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Meira Svirsky

Meira Svirsky is the editor of ClarionProject.org

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