Monday, March 18, 2002
Nigerian court to address adultery case today
A story released today by the Daily Trust reports that Nigerian resident
Safiya Hussaini, sentenced to death by stoning last year for committing
adultery by a Sharia court will know the outcome of her appeal at the Sharia
appellate court in Sokoto today.
The 35-year-old woman was found guilty of adultery by an Islamic court in
Sokoto last October after giving birth to a child while unmarried. She later
appealed against the court ruling.
Lawyers familiar with the Islamic legal system in Sokoto said that there
were three possible scenarios for the outcome of today's hearing.
The court could discharge the case and acquit Hussaini, or it could ask
the original court to re-try the case on the basis of the new evidence, or
it could re-affirm the conviction and sentence.
Even if the conviction and sentence are confirmed, the lawyers say, there
are two further possibilities for appeal, at a Higher Appeal Court and at
the Nigerian Supreme Court, after which the Sokoto State governor could
still grant clemency.
Meanwhile, there are mounting pressure from the international community
for the Federal Government to intervene in the matter.
On Saturday, European Union leaders urged the Federal Government not to
carry out the death-by-stoning sentence on Safiya Hussaini.
The EU leaders said at the end of a two-day summit in Barcelona, that
they were "deeply concerned" at the sentence.
"We urge the Nigerian authorities to fully respect human rights and human
dignity with particular reference to women," the EU leaders said.
Thursday, March 14, 2002
Divorce rate in China climbing
A story released today by the Australian reports that in China, between
1990 and 2000, the number of couples who divorced rose by more than 50
percent, to 1.21 million couples. The national rate of 10 percent is low,
compared with international standards, but it rises to 20 percent in big
cities such as Beijing and Shanghai. Such is the trend that Chinese in their
30s have only half-jokingly swapped the traditional greeting of "Chifan le
ma?" (Have you eaten?) for "Hai mei li ne?" (Have you divorced yet?).
Amendments to China's Marriage Law, to encourage a more mature attitude
to wedlock and give people greater control over their lives, appear to be
behind the divorce rate rise.
As long as both parties to a marriage agree on fundamental issues, such
as the division of assets and custody of offspring, divorce can be
rubber-stamped through the Chinese bureaucracy within a day.
For the guardians of modern Chinese morals, the soaring divorce rate is
not an indication that the traditional family unit is breaking down.
Defensively, the Ministry of Civil Affairs believes it is evidence that
Chinese people are showing a growing interest in the quality of marriage,
rather than regarding the legal union in purely pragmatic terms.
"Divorce is not a bad thing. It gives couples a chance to rectify the
mistake if they realize that the marriage is a mismatch," said Xu Anqi, a
marriage researcher at Shanghai's Academy of Social Sciences.
As taboos against divorce break down, researchers such as Ms. Xu are
starting to question traditional pressures for keeping a marriage together.
She told recently in an interview that many children of divorced parents
were relieved when their parents finally called an end to an unhappy
marriage, and that up to 15 percent of children from broken homes showed
improvement in school performance and social behavior.