A Difficult Place to Be a Widow in Nigeria

Marriage in Nigeria is celebrated amid pomp and extravagance.   The cost of hosting a marriage for some people can be scary, yet the joy of getting married supersedes its expense and stress.  However, in some parts of eastern Nigeria, when a woman loses her spouse, things turn out worse for her.  These women are subjected to barbaric and dehumanizing customs that often leaves them depressed and shattered for life.

A Difficult Place to Be a Widow in Nigeria

Often, some relatives blame the woman for the death of her husband. After burial, the trial and tribulation begin for these unfortunate women.  For some families, they strip these women of their properties and money, leaving them to the mercy of God.

This barbaric custom is accepted as normal and seen as a justifiable act to carry out.  We have heard of women who were forced to drink water used to wash their late husband’s bodies, as proof of their innocence.

Other acts include shaving of the head, pubic and armpit hair with a razor blade by older widows called the “umuada”. These women are forced not to speak out unless they want to cry, while sleeping with the corpse as a symbolic last sexual act with dead spouse is still carried out.

The traditional mourning period for these widows leave them wondering if God exists. Local custom laws are strictly used to dispossess every hard earned money and property from them.  You might be wondering what the law of the country say about this act.

The Nigerian law has abolished this act, but the local law is yet to obey the supremacy of this law over them. Widowhood in some parts of the eastern Nigeria is based on intimidating, humiliating, and subduing women to enforce obedience, and render them perpetually subservient.

In the Nigeria’s constitution, it emphasizes equal rights for everyone, especially the women, but inequality has become a long-standing tradition for the men. However, most women are smarter to allow strangers and extended families stop them from living freely after the death of their spouses.

Most people have resort to using testate in fighting for their rights.  We have seen families push extended families to oblivion when they build their futures. They do not allow others to know what they own and use law to back up their properties.

Under Igbo Customary Law, the male child is king.  This has led many men to marry second wives or have concubines in a quest to have a male child.  The male child inherits the family’s property and wealth, leaving the female child to fend for herself or get married.

This custom has rubbed off on the widowhood in this part of the world.  Widows have more to contend with, if they have no male child.   Today, majority of the younger married women with the help of the some good men have taken active steps to weaken these barbaric customs.

However, if any of these women is caught in the web of this custom, only God can save the person from suffering untold hardship.