What Are the Features of Widowhood Practice in Nigeria?
Widowhood practices in Nigeria include customs which require women to engage in a number of rituals that many consider evidence of a double standard between the way men and women are treated after a spouse passes away. Losing a husband places a woman in a place of extreme vulnerability with regard to her ability to support herself financially, and her ability to provide emotional and financial support for any children from the marriage.
This leaves the woman at the mercy of friends and family members who may be bound by societal practices to adhere to all or most of the practices which are customary for the community and which can not be changed. An example of one of these practices is the practice of the widow wailing and moaning out loud during the day and night, while men are not required to make any outward showing of grief.
Criticism of the widowhood practices in Nigeria appear to be related to the practices during the mourning period, which are described as almost inhumane for the widow. Widows are described as losing rights to the the husband’s personal property whether or not the husband died and left a will. Widows in Nigeria are often treated as their deceased husband’s murder suspects and have been asked to engage in rituals to prove their innocence, and to engage in cultural practices to prove that they have purified themselves and are free of guilt (Genyi, 2013).
Other examples include practices which force the widow to stay awake during the afternoons whether or not she may want to sleep because of grief or fatigue. Some other practices demean the widow, including having her entire body and head shaved, and being forced to drink from the bath water of her husband’s dead body which could make her physically ill and could damage her psychologically (Nwogu, 2015).
The laws governing widowhood practices in Nigeria are being challenged at national and international levels and are considered human rights violations (Nwogu, 2015).
Akinbi, J. O. (2015). Widowhood Practices in Some Nigerian Societies: A Retrospective Examination. International Journal of Humanities and Social Science 5(4), 67-74.
Genyi, G. A. (2013), Widowhood and Nigerian Womanhood: Another Context of
Gendered Poverty in Nigeria, Research on Humanities and Social Sciences 3(7) 68-73.
Nwogu, M. I. (2015) The Legal Anatomy of Cultural Widowhood Practices in South Eastern Nigeria: The Need for a Panacea. Global Journal of Politics and Law Research 3(1) 79-90.
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