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Zina 1 and transgressive heterosexuality in northern Nigeria

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Abstract

implementers of some expressions of illicit sex, and not others, as a sexual crime. Zina is transgressive according to Sharia criminal law. While the Sharia does not explicitly name zina as transgressive heterosexuality, it is clear from significant elements of its conceptualisation, that is, its status as consensual sex between a man and a woman who are not married to one another, that zina involves heterosexual sex and that the source of its transgression is its occurrence outside marriage. I begin by addressing the legal and political contexts for the particular form that Sharia has taken in northern Nigeria, before proceeding to examine pre- vailing understandings of zina. Legal formulations of zina are juxtaposed with non-formalised, common-sense understandings, to point to the distinction between formal expressions of principles in Sharia criminal law on zina and popular understandings of such principles. Highlighting this distinction pre- cedes the elaboration of a further distinction, which is that between principle and practice. In this instance, this is the distinction between Sharia and between prevailing Hausa sexual culture as lived cultural practices, engaged in by particular social categories of women and men. Muslim women's struggles against the various controls that have been imposed on them in the name of Islam have taken diverse forms. The interna- tional solidarity network Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML) provides a forum for strengthening women's struggles in diverse contexts of "the Muslim world". These include contexts in which Islam is the state religion; Muslim communities governed by minority religious laws; and secular states where an expanding political presence is manifested in the rising demand for religious laws. WLUML recognises that women within the network will have

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... Feminist Dissent 2018 (3), pp. 114-146 (Pereira, 2005). 7 Restrictions on sexuality are not confined to heterosexual women alone. ...
... Pereira (2005, p. 55) shows the distinction between Shari'a codes and prevailing Hausa sexual culture as lived cultural practices in the context of 'state-sponsored efforts by the Muslim religious right to reconstruct discourses of heterosexuality. ' Pereira (2005) writes of modern courtship including spending time in the potential bride's house engaging in sexual intercourse to test compatibility and how these practices contrast with prosecutions for zina. She writes about tsarance, common in the early 20 th century but no longer practiced, where village groupings of girls and boys would engage in cuddling and sleeping together, and kawance or angwance, where friends of the bride or groom would gather for the wedding away from parents and have sexual freedoms with neither religious scholars nor anyone else condemning this practice. ...
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This article examines the binary of culture/ religion/ tradition and modern/ secular/ foreign and its impact on women’s human rights struggles in particular in northern Nigeria. This binary is commonly perpetuated by state and non-state actors, including politicians, community leaders and religious leaders, who weaponise culture, religion and tradition to resist the struggle for gender equality. It highlights how progress around some concerns, such as rape of young girls, has occurred concurrently with attacks on other rights, particularly sexual and reproductive rights including abortion and sex outside marriage, and of those with non-normative sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions. This hardening of attitudes and narrowing of what is seen as permissible not only obscures the diversity of how people lived and thought in the past but is also far from the reality of how people live their lives presently. It further reflects the increased influence of religious fundamentalism and conservatism in northern Nigeria.[1] [1] I used the term religious fundamentalism as distinct from religious conservatism and to signify the project whereby those engaged in it ‘construct ‘tradition’ in a way that is highly selective, at the same time as dogmatically insisting that their reconstructions of text are ‘sacred’ and so unable to be questioned’ (Cowden and Sahgal, 2017, 15), deny ‘the possibility of interpretation and reinterpretation even while its adherents engage in both’ (Bennoune, 2013, 16) and centre the importance of control of women’s bodies and sexuality and rigid gender roles. Religious fundamentalists ‘believe in the imposition of God’s law, something called the Sharia – their version of it rather than others’ – on Muslims everywhere and in the creation of what they deem to be Islamic states or disciplined diasporic communities ruled by these laws,’ denounce secularists, seek to bring politicised religion into all spheres, want to police, judge and change the behaviour, appearance and comportment of others and aim to sharply limit women’s rights, sometimes in the name of protection, respect and difference (Bennoune, 2013, 16). In contrast, while religious conservatism remains problematic, it does not make claims to possessing the only true interpretation and can be ‘protective of certain traditional spaces for women as well as being capable of reform and change’ (Cowden and Sahgal, 2017, 18).
... All these constructions through socialization have been accepted by these former colonies including Ghana. The acceptance of this foreign culture has now shaped the way families bring up their members; how Christians and Muslims train their members which has also influenced how educational curricula and the media present the ideals of the society (Oduyoye & Ammah-Konney, 2009;Pereira, 2005). Cultural teachings in the Ghanaian society right from home, school, through to the religious bodies and the media have placed the appropriate avenue for sex in marriage. ...
... More women than men have been convicted of "Zina" or adultery in Islamic communities (Pereira, 2005). Women have different standards of evidence applied to them. ...
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ABSTRACT This study ascertained perceptions on forced sex in marriage in six communities in the Cape Coast Metropolis’ of Ghana. Themes explored include the respondents’ perception on sexual rights in marriage; the category of persons who experience forced sex in marriage; factors that lead to forced sex in marriage; how to deal with forced sex in marriage and the construction of sexuality in the metropolis. In all a total of 27 male and female respondents irrespective of marital status and educational background were used. Out of this, 20 were conveniently selected while the remaining 7 representing opinion leaders were purposely selected to respond to items on construction of sexuality. There were also 3 focus group discussions comprising of an all male, all female and mixed sex groups. The study adopted African feminist Sylvia Tamale’s argument on the construction of sexuality as its theoretical underpinnings while inductive analysis and creative synthesis was used to analyze responses. The study clearly showed that the issue of forced sex in marriage which became a debate in Ghana and subsequently taken out while the Domestic Violence (DV) Act of Ghana exists and is recognized by all, though its occurrence is not reported. The study further ascertained the construction of sexuality which gives differential sexual roles to males and females in the community creating the overall status of these two groups on sex, contribute to the issue of non-reporting of forced sex in marriage. The study therefore recommended the enactment of specific laws to be passed towards dealing with forced sex in marriage.
... So for example in northern Nigeria, while the culture of sexual relationships between unmarried couples was widespread and tolerated, the implementation of sharia law across northern states from 2000 onwards has sought to constrain and re-shape gender relations and matters of sexuality. Many of the earlier customs are now seen as transgressive, with charges of zina (criminalising sex outside marriage) being levelled at so-called perpetrators as women's sexuality is increasingly viewed as a source of immorality (Pereira, 2005). These social shifts are linked to the radicalisation of northern Nigerian Islam through its contact with zealous and fundamentalist Islamic sects in other parts of the world from the 1970s onwards, leading to more puritanical and stricter interpretations that had previously been played down (Best, 2001). ...
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This essay lays out the historical and intellectual lineage of the idea behind the journal Feminist Dissent. As the “Rushdie Affair” was both the backdrop and the catalyst for a group such as Women Against Fundamentalism, the current conjuncture characterized by an exponential expansion of fundamentalism, neo-liberal austerity, rollback of the rights of women and sexual minorities, and racist control of borders and migration has necessitated a different kind of analysis, one that is absent from academic and popular discourse at the moment. This essay is an attempt to propose a new way of looking at the intersection of gender and fundamentalism and underscores the importance of highlighting dissent as a crucial feminist strategy.
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