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ANALYSIS: Obnoxious Customary Laws In Igbo Land, And Plight Of Widows


By IGNATIUS OKPARA, Enugu – From time immemorial, the demise of a husband in any family, including polygamous homes, especially in most African nations, had always been a serious blow, and tragedy that creates an ever lasting vacuum.

Such sad development always leave the bereaved family in perpetual pains, anguish and ever lasting sorrow.

Sometimes, the widow of a deceased husband is subjected to various forms of hard times occasioned by traditional laws of their home land.

Aside the biological children and other close relations of bereaved families, the worst hit by the death of a husband is always the widow, especially in areas where obnoxious customary laws exist, as obtained in some segments of Igbo land in Nigeria.

Widows, in parts of Igbo land, are always made to face all forms of dehumanising and
ill treatment after the death of their husbands.

In most communities of  south- East geo political zone of Nigeria, that is (Igbo land), widows are subjected to all manner of anti widowhood practices, including physiological and emotional torture which makes life more miserable for them.

Sometimes, such anti widowhood laws are enshrined in the village native laws and customs which had been in  existence since inception of such community.

Some of the inhuman and dehumanising treatment meted against widows in Igbo land includes, violent shaving of her hair, forcing her to drink the water used in washing the corpse of her late husband.

All these, are in the name of proving herself innocent on the death of her late husband.

Apart from the aforementioned agonising ill treatment, widows, in parts of Igbo land, especially in Enugu and Ebonyi states, are compelled by family members of their late husband, to remarry any of his brothers, as a pre condition for her to be part of the deceased property or assets.

In the area under review, women do not enjoy any rights to inheritance under the customary laws.

For instance, in the traditional Igbo culture, a widow and daughter does not inherit father or husband’s property.
If a man dies without  male children in Igbo land, his properties goes to his male relatives, but contrarily, if a wife dies, her properties, including the immovable ones, including lands, money, livestock goes to her husbands and sons.

However, the disturbing and alarming rate of psychological, violence, as well as economic torture against widows in Igbo land, especially in a 21st century, calls for a serious and urgent legal redress.

It is no longer news that this obnoxious anti widow hoods customary laws still exist in most communities in Igbo land, and has continued to make life unbearable for scores of widows in the area.
As the anti widowhood native laws continue to confine widows into a helpless condition in the land, there is needs for religious bodies and their leaders to rise up against such ungodly act.
Besides, it is also time for some of the Non government organisations, NGOs operating in the south east, especially those with bias for women issues, to rise up to the occasions by sponsoring  widowhood bills” in the various state houses of Assemblies in the zone.

Such bill if passed into law, should prohibits all forms of injustices and maltreatment against widows in the land, it should make it an offence for anybody or group to dehumanise, discriminate, discriminate or deny a widow her fundamental rights and freedom which she would ordinarily  be entitled to under the nation’s constitution.


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