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Teenage girl floggedfor pre-marital sexual encounter under Islamic Sharia law in Nigeria;more human rights questions follow

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Whatbegan as a distant issue over pre-marital sex and Islamic religionhas come full circle in Nigeria with the flogging of a young girl,Bariya Ibrahim Magazu, in the Sharia-governed state of Zamfara. Theonce local issue has since blossomed into an international humanrights struggle.

She was "sentenced" after three men forced her into having sex inSeptember 2000, and inflicted 100 lashes on Monday January 22, 2001.Bariya was made pregnant in the incident and her punishment wasdeferred by the authorities in the northern state of Zamfara untiltwo weeks after she had given birth.

Her case provoked national and international outrage, and humanrights groups and the Canadian government protested vehemently whenthe sentence was passed last year. But the Deputy Governor ofZamfara, Mahmoud Shinkafi, has said that "the disgrace in public iswhat deters people...." - a reference and justification for floggingBariya.

Some observers of the punishment said she was bruised but notbadly hurt by the flogging,. About 100 people gathered to watch thesensational clash of religion and forced sexual activities. Humanrights campaigner Aisha Imam said that "it's a shock. It's a horriblething to happen to Bariya." Locally, other human rights groups inNigeria have been quick to condemn the lashings. But some Muslimsinsist that such flogging help to stamp out moral laxity.

The case has also remained an embarrassment to the Nigeriangovernment of Olusegun Obasanjo, former retired army general. Hisgovernment chose not to confront states in the north of the countrywhich have extended Sharia during the past year, excusing itself byarguing that any breaches of anyone's human rights are matters forthe courts to handle.

Unfortunately, that line of reasoning widened the door to morereligioun-bound brigandage and killings of south easterners(especially Igbosin the northern region of Nigeria). The religious conflicts haveequally remained a dangerous point which may implode the marchtowards a truly democratic government in (with additional reports from the BBC and wireservices).

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