Protecting Nigerian Women

Too Many of Nigeria’s Women Are Targets—Not Just the Kidnapped Girls

Sharia laws help create an environment where a group like Boko Haram can grow and thrive. 

Boko Haram’s kidnappings may not have been state-sanctioned, but its leader, Abubakar Shekau, declared that the group was following Allah’s order. Regardless of his fanatical motivation, the kidnappings were a criminal act and should have been handled as such by state authorities. But they failed to address the matter until it became a national and international embarrassment.

The facts surrounding the kidnappings are still unclear: for instance, were state authorities warned about Boko Haram’s plans? What is clear is that for a state that would have been swift to prosecute the girls for adultery and other sharia-related crimes, Borno was incredibly slow to respond when the girls became victims of a crime. Shekau’s response to the national outcry that ensued—that he would sell the girls as slaves in the market—is evidence of Boko Haram’s assumption of ownership of the girls, and it begs the question, “what gave him the right to make such a reprehensible statement?” Shekau has made known his wish to see sharia law imposed throughout Nigeria. I would suggest that when a state adopts sharia laws that are in their application blatantly unfavorable to women, it creates a legal climate in which a terrorist group like Boko Haram believes it has a right to do as it pleases with girls without prosecution.

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