Does Igbo Culture Protect Women From Domestic Violence?
To the best of my knowledge, misogyny is a word that does exist in our Igbo vocabulary, and our culture isn’t misogynistic as well. We are guided by social/gender roles which is one of our guiding principles towards the institution of most innate cultural practices. There are also a few exceptions where these gender roles are fluid in regard to female husbands and male daughters.
Chief Odeluwa once said in an interview that Pride Price wasn’t part of our Igbo culture and this came with an uproar, this made me reach out to my lecturer who referred me back to a course we had in our first semester “Anth 1o1- Economic Redistribution”. I met the same theory again when we read the astonishing adventures of Oluadah Equiano but honestly, the simplest answer here is that we never had a standard means of value exchange. What really existed was the dowry or as we know it today; ihe eji eduna nwaanyi. I had this discussion with my grandmother who said the pride price depends on the father of the child, if he is greedy then he’d be looking at selling his daughter but nonetheless the real intention of this pride wealth is just to appreciate the efforts of the parents for raising the woman.
This practice has been gravely misunderstood and has reduced women to property, hence why most fathers would refuse to collect anything and make it known that they are not selling their daughter. Those who misunderstand this practice, see the woman as what they own and can discard, hence the high rate of domestic violence which often lead to death.
There are a couple of Igbo practices that deterred a high rate of domestic violence.
- Ogwugwu so nwaayi eje ije-di- The best thing about Odinaani is that it makes you feel protected, in terms of war or perilous journey you can imbue or commit such adventure into the hands of a deity called Ngwu, etc. For women who intend to marry, she is doing so with spirits from her father’s house especially feminine spirits or energies. In most, they manifest as udara trees or oglishi and we can confirm the presence of these deities through Afa. In Nnewi, we have a deity called Mkpukpa Ochiogu-read this on my blog.
- Okwu Nwaada- This is a spiritual problem associated with women, it occurs as a result of women being wronged or ignored. For instance, the usage of a nwada for sacrifice, the selling of a nwada; this was made popular during the slave area, the unchallenged death of a woman, an unburied woman or one that wasnt given her full right and therefore was not properly buried and finally a woman that died as a result of domestic violence and wasnt asked after by her male relative. This particular deterrent can lead to the extinction of an entire family or a community, hence why our ancestors were extremely careful in handling this kind of issues. Earlier this year I went with Ekili Foundation to Ebonyi to interview a Dibia Aja, I asked why do we hear of Okwu Nwaada but we’v never heard of Okwu Okolobia, he said that, unlike men, women do not have strong roots and therefore our loyalties are often divided but nonetheless ancestral and cosmic forces easily heed to the cry of women than they do to men, properly because we do not often call on them as the men do.
- Ego Utali and Inodu Nwoke n’isi: The first one is usually performed during Ime Ego Nwaanyi, its a form of commitment that ensures that men do not violently beat their wives, hence they make commitments that pave way to mobilize a woman’s kinsmen in order to carry out justice. While this is true, a woman’s kinsmen do not need any form of commitment before they perform their duties on behalf of their sister. They are aware of the consequences if she dies as a result of Domestic Violence.
Inodu nwoke n’isi is usually done by Umuada and Iyom Di, their job is to question the man’s manhood and basically destroy his properties until he appeases these women.
Aside these things that I mentioned, cases of Domestic Violence are usually taken up by a man’s kinsmen in bids to achieve serenity before the issue escalates and by so doing they hope to prevent death as the result of Domestic violence which could convert the spirit of this dead woman into a vengeful spirit wreaking havoc and manifesting as Akaogheli,Ogbonauke or Ogbanje.
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Thank you for a really useful article.
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