“Obnoxious Widowhood Rites in Nigeria: Looking through Gender Lens”

This article discusses issues of widowhood rites and practices in Nigeria, which are prevalent in some areas such as Igboland, Akwa Ibom, Edo and Delta states and even parts of Ondo state. More often than not, a widow is accused of being responsible for the death of her husband, especially when the man dies at a young age. Therefore, widows are coerced into going through degrading and dehumanising rituals all in an effort to prove her innocence. Manifestations of these rituals are discussed as follows: shaving of head (can be forcible if woman refuses to perform this voluntarily), forcing a widow to drink the water used to wash her husband’s corpse, ‘Aja Ani’ (widow has to sleep with the high priest to cleanse her of her dead husband’s spirit), confining to house (and often only one room in the house, forced remarriage to hasband’s relative.  The article argues strongly that these ritualistic practices are fundamental violations of women’s human rights, and the Nigerian law (and individuals within society) must be changed to reflect this.

Izuako, Obiageli
Source publication: 
Under the BAOBAB Tree, p. 3-4