A Nigerian court will pursue the death penalty against 14-year-old Wasilat Tasi’u for allegedly murdering her 35-year-old husband, Umar Sani. The case caught the attention of activists around the world concerned about child brides and forced marriages.
“She was married to a man that she didn’t love,” said women’s rights activist Zubeida Nagee. “She protested but her parents forced her to marry him.”
Tasi’u and Sani married in April, and Sani and three people died two weeks later, supposedly from food poisoning. The police claim she confessed to the murder.
According to the UK Daily Mail, “Hamziyya … the sister of Sani’s ‘co-wife,'” only seven-years-old, testified she bought the rat poison for Tasi’u because “rats were disturbing her in her room.” Shopkeeper Abuwa Yusuf told the court he sold the poison to Tasi’u. Abdulrahim Ibrahim, a neighbor, saw “some sandy-like particles, black in colour.”
Tasi’u did not “respond at a previous hearing on October 30,” which forced Judge Mohammed Yahaya to enter a plea of not guilty. Her father Isyaku Tasi’u told the Associated Press the family is “appealing to the judge to consider Wasilat’s plea.” However, the father could face charges since he forced Tasi’u into the marriage. Nigeria passed The Child’s Rights Act in 2003, which raised the age for marriage to 18.
Child marriage is common in northern Nigeria, but the Islamic police attempt to “stop parents from forcing children into marriages against their will.” A Ford Foundation study found the practice occurs more in Nigeria than other African countries combined.