At the age of 14 Wasila Tasi’u was accused of killing four people, including her 35-year-old husband, Umar Sani, who had another wife, two weeks after her forced marriage to him. The prosecution originally sought the death penalty against Tasi’u, but the charges have been dropped.
Tasi’u allegedly laced the food she prepared with rat poison. Sani’s second wife, Ramatu, testified against Tasi’u, saying her ‘co-wife’ was allowed to prepare his food because it was her turn to share a bed with him.
"With a heavy heart, I apply that the accused be discharged," said prosecutor Lamido Abba Soron-Dinki. Kano County had been under pressure to drop the charges from human rights groups, Daily Mail reports.
Defense attorney Hussaina Ibrahim said that on the night of the wedding, Tasi’u was taken to her husband’s house where she was tied to a bed, raped, and not freed until the morning.
The charity Girls Not Brides says that 39 percent of Nigerian girls are married before their 18th birthday and 16 percent are married before they turn 15. Rates are particularly high in the Muslim north which blends state laws with Islamic Sharia lawsa.
Tasi’u’s native village of Unguwar Yansoro has no school, and Tasi’u’s parents said they had no option besides marrying her off as soon as possible, The Guardian reports. They also said 14 is a common age for girls to marry in their deeply impoverished region.
Sharia law complicated the case because there are no guidelines for when it conflicts with state law.
“We are against the trial. The whole process violates her fundamental rights. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child says she should be in education. She should be in school,” Ibrahim said.
Ibrahm is the only woman with a private legal practice in her state. Every year she handles around 20 cases involving forced marriages, and she also handles cases of domestic abuse and child labor.
The nature of Ibrahim's work has made her a target of the terrorist group Boko Haram. The group is known for having killed more than 13,000 civilians since 2009, and for kidnapping 276 schoolgirls in 2014 to be auctioned, sold off as sex slaves or ransomed.
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