Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.


Executing pregnant women

19 May 2014, 15:00

Abuja - The proposed execution of a heavily pregnant woman in Sudan for failing to recant her religion, has caused international outrage.

News24 reports that a Sudanese judge sentenced the heavily pregnant Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag, 27, to hang for apostasy. Miriam is married to a Christian and is eight months pregnant.

Amnesty International reports that Meriam was raised as an Orthodox Christian, her mother’s religion, because her father, a Muslim, was reportedly absent during her childhood.

She was arrested and charged with adultery in August 2013 after a family member reportedly claimed that she was committing adultery because of her marriage to her Christian South Sudanese husband.

The court added the charge of apostasy in February 2014 when Meriam asserted that she was a Christian and not a Muslim.

She has also been sentenced to 100 lashes for 'adultery'. Execution in Sudan is mostly by hanging but also by stoning.

This case brings into the spotlight the issue of pregnant women, punishment and execution.

“The fact that a woman has been sentenced to death for her religious choice, and to flogging for being married to a man of an allegedly different religion is appalling and abhorrent.

Adultery and apostasy are acts which should not be considered crimes at all. It is flagrant breach of international human rights law,” said Manar Idriss, Amnesty International’s Sudan researcher.

Executing pregnant women

According to Deathpenaltyworldwide, in almost every country in the world, it is illegal to execute a pregnant woman. Of the 93 countries that retain the death penalty, 84 have passed laws prohibiting the execution of pregnant women.

A further 8 countries have ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which prohibits the practice:  Afghanistan, Gambia, Grenada, Guyana, Liberia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Tanzania.

In Afghanistan, women who are more than 6 months pregnant at the time of sentencing will not be imprisoned until 4 months later – in effect, after delivery.

In Papua New Guinea, a pregnant woman will be spared execution upon request.

The only country in the world where a pregnant woman may legally be executed is Saint Kitts and Nevis.

The major issue at stake in the execution of a pregnant woman is whether the state sees the unborn baby as a person, or not. Killing the mother means killing the baby, who is not guilty of any crime.

Since 1387 under English common law pregnant women could not be executed, and would only be put on the execution list after the baby was delivered. This sometimes encouraged women to become pregnant again as soon as possible after the birth of the first baby.

This defence was called ‘Pleading the Belly’. In practice, the death sentence was often commuted after the birth of the baby, especially in Victorian times.

Oddly enough, in many places where the death penalty is legal, abortion is frowned upon. The biggest reason given for the latter is usually the ‘sanctity of life’.

Very few women sentenced to death

Women make up a very small percentage of people who are executed. In the United States between 1973 and 2011 they made up only 2.1% of the total. Since 1976 1375 executions have been performed in the US – and only 14 of these were of women.

There are some countries such as Belarus, Guatemala, Mongolia, Russia and Tajikistan, where men may be executed, but not women.

In Nigeria 20 women are on Death Row, and 1014 men.

Amnesty International estimates that in China about 140 people are executed per week – but a shroud of secrecy surrounds these executions, and exact statistics on the gender of the executed are not available.

Quite a few young women have been executed in China for drug offences, but the fact that these hit the news means that the execution of a woman is still newsworthy, even in China.

Some say gender biasing affects capital sentencing decisions, and others that crimes that carry the death penalty tend to be extremely violent, and are more likely to be perpetrated by male offenders.

But violent crime is not the only offence worldwide that carries the death penalty, as can be seen in the Sudanese case mentioned above. In some countries, drug trafficking and political activism can carry the death penalty, to name but two.

- Health24

For the latest on national news, politics, sport, entertainment and more follow us on Twitter and like our Facebook page!


Sex talk

27 October 2016, 10:03

Read News24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Read more from our Users

Submitted by
Victor Tinto
Leave ODM if you are unhappy, Rai...

Leave ODM if you are not happy, Raila Odinga tells Senator. Read more...

Submitted by
Victor Tinto
Former Assistant Minister joins J...

A former Assistant Minister has quit PNU and joined the Jubilee Party. Read more...

Submitted by
Victor Tinto
DP Ruto intervenes as Kerio Valle...

DP William Ruto will visit Kerio Valley to try solve never-ending clashes between local residents. Read more...

Submitted by
Wilson Ochieng
ODM MP chased down by angry Kibra...

Kibra MP Ken Okoth had a hard time in his constituency after angry youth pelted him with stones. Read more...

Submitted by
Wilson Ochieng
Prepare for DP Ruto fight in 2022...

An MP has warned that the Kalenjin Community will not stand back and watch as DP Ruto is duped ahead of the 2022 polls. Read more...

Submitted by
William Korir
Be careful who you deal with, DP ...

Watch out for your political future, DP William Ruto has been warned. Read more...