•Modernity neglected them

•Blame pentecostal churches; they destroy marriages
— Ogbuefi Ray Ifeme

•They encourage conduct of marriage ceremonies in Igboland with soft drinks, instead of palm wine

•We use diviners to mete out punishment to wife batterers — Igwe Ukuta

•No Igbo community tolerates wife battering — Anaso

By Anayo Okoli, Vincent Ujumadu, Ikechukwu Odu, Chimaobi Nwaiwu, Chinedu Adonu, Chinonso Alozie, Ugochukwu Alaribe & Nwabueze Okonkwo

ENUGU — Domestic violence, particularly wife battering, has become rampant in the society today, including Igboland.

The death of popular gospel singer, Osinachi Nwachukwu, allegedly in the hands of her husband, brought to the fore what some women undergo in their marriages.

This was not so in the past because in Igboland, they had customary ways of checkmating such acts.

In Nri Community in Anambra State, for instance, they included precautionary traditional rules to checkmate it as one of the items in the marriage list of requirements.

And at the marriage ceremonies, the groom is made to pay what they called ego otiti okpili, which literarily translates to ‘money for punishment’ of proposed groom, if he dared molest the wife.

The money, in essence, is like an advance payment by the groom to the in-laws, to hire youths in their kindred to deal with him if he molests or abuses their daughter in the course of the marriage.

And to ensure that the groom understands the implication, in the course of the ceremonies, he would be called to step out; the elders would dutifully explain to him what the money is meant for and ensured that he understood what he is paying for. The groom basically consents in advance, to thorough punishment if he beats his wife.

The traditional ruler of Iggah community in Uzo-Uwani Local Government Area of Enugu State, Igwe Herbert Ukuta, said his community use diviners to mete out punishment to men who beat their wives. The monarch explained that the degree of the punishment is usually determined by the severity of injury inflicted on the wife and the cause of the violence.

According to him, it is a taboo in his community for men to batter their wives, no matter the provocation. He said that he has also initiated an orientation programme in the community, which has helped to enlighten his subjects on causes of domestic violence which has been guiding them to avoid such.

“The traditional punishment for wife beaters is always determined by diviners in my community. The severity or otherwise of the punishment is determined by the degree of injury inflicted on the wife and the cause of the violence. Sometimes too, it is the wife who beats the husband but it is a taboo in my community for husbands to beat their wives.

“Instead of beating the wife, I normally encourage my subjects to report their wives to their parents or church leaders, as the case may be. If the church or the parents fail to resolve the problem, it is brought to the clan for settlement.

“If the woman was caught in adultery, palm fronds are usually tied around her while the villagers parade her across the villages in a show of shame. However, we are on the verge of modifying this method so that everything would be settled at the clan level.

“I am calling on all other traditional rulers in Enugu State and beyond to emulate my method of curtailing marital violence through orientation programme which enlightens everyone on ways to reduce domestic violence. Since I started it in my community, cases of wife battering and domestic violence have reduced to the barest minimum”, Igwe Ukuta said.

According to a foremost promoter of Igbo tradition and customs, Ogbuefi Ray Ifeme, marriage in Igbo land is a serious business. It involves everybody, from the immediate family, to kinsmen, to village, and the community at large.

That is why we usually have middlemen in the marriage negotiation. The beauty of the middleman is that he makes enquiries about the families of the man and woman who are planning to get married.

The middleman interacts with both families and if any of the parties going into the marriage has any problem, he or she complains to the middleman. If worst comes to worst, you don’t even return somebody’s daughter to the family, it must be through the middleman and the same middleman will return the dowry to the man if the issue cannot be settled.

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“Women are gold to Igbo men. It is now that we see Igbo men touch our ladies, be it in marriage or whatsoever. The reason is that we have city marriages now. You will see a girl today, the next day she is married to a man whose parents she doesn’t know. Somebody will stay in London and a marriage will be organised on his behalf here.

Middlemen don’t come into marriages now, even the kinsmen will just come, collect their entitlements and go. This is where the problem lies.

“Unfortunately, Osinachi’s husband is from my maternal home, Ukpor. He is not a responsible man. If he was a true Igbo man, he wouldn’t have maltreated his wife and again, religion messed up our marriage institution in Igbo land.

“You can hardly find a man or woman who would be there for the other because each will be dragging on gender equality. It is religion that is the problem. In Igbo customs and traditions, the man is the head of the family and the woman is the neck, so, we respect them.

“My maternal grandfather had 32 wives. My mother was the last daughter. Out of those 32 wives, majority didn’t bear children for him. They married those days for farming and to show how brave one was.

The church, particularly the Pentecostal denomination, has bastardized our tradition. White wedding is not even acceptable to us in Igbo culture and tradition. Religious marriage is not for the Igbo because the priest won’t pour libations to the ancestors; neither will he settle the kinsmen. That is the problem.

These days, women give out their daughters in marriage which is not traditional in Igbo land,” Ifeme said.

The traditional ruler of Ogrute Autonomous community, Igbo-Eze North Local Government Area of Enugu State, Igwe Wilfred Ekere said that it is a taboo in Enugu-Ezike. He, however, regretted that customs and values of the community have been bastardized by the people.

He noted that the predominance of autonomous communities threw up traditional rulers who don’t know the tradition, custom and culture. They dictate to the people, neglecting the oldest men who are the custodians of tradition and culture.

According to him, the tradition in his community requires that anybody who beats his wife would bring a goat, a carton of stout, malt, two gallons of palm wine and food for cleansing.

In addition, any woman beaten by her husband will have to go back to her father’s house and the husband will come for her for peaceful discussion with drinks and kola nuts. He, however, regretted that the traditional law which ought to be binding on every member of the community, is now based on family acceptance.

“Our tradition has been bastardized by the people. The law is now made according to family. We have effective law for domestic violence and wife battering as prescribed by our forefathers. Wife battery is a taboo,” the monarch said.

In Atuegwu community, Nnewi South Council Area of Anambra State, Mr. James Anaso, the President-General of the town union, said that it is usually one of the conditions given to a suitor in his area that on no account should he lay hands on their daughter no matter the circumstances.

According to him, should a daughter from the community report on any physical abuse by her husband, the leadership of the village would not hesitate to send emissaries to the family of her husband with a serious warning.

“It is not a question of inviting the police to arrest our in-law who is in the habit of beating our daughter. Once we get such information, we send some youths to the eldest member of our in-law’s family with kola nut, which serves as a serious warning.

During such visit, the emissaries are usually warned not to accept any kola or food during the mission. Such a visit puts fear in the husband and if he repeats the beating of our daughter, it becomes a case between the two villages or communities.

In fact, there had been occasions when we had to go and carry our daughter, leaving behind her children. The idea is that the children left behind by the woman would make the husband’s relations to come for negotiations.“

“When the two families eventually agree that the woman should return to her husband, they could then eat together. So you could see that our people do not tolerate the maltreatment of women,” Anaso said.

Another community leader, Chief Augustine Amuzie said because he could not tolerate the maltreatment of his sister by her husband, he had to take both his sister and her three children aged between one and five years, who are still living in his house with their mother.

He said: “My sister’s husband looked like a gentleman when he came to marry my sister. Barely one year into the marriage, we began to get information that my sister had been turned into a punching bag by her husband. We tried to settle their differences on many occasions but it eventually got out of hand and I had no choice than to bring them to my house.


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