Most widows in Nigeria are made to undergo various torture in the name of fulfilling the burial rites of their deceased husband, VICTORIA OZOHU MAYAKI in this report, looks at the plight of the widows.
Widowhood, a mental and emotional devastating state in a woman’s life, is one period no woman ever wishes to experience especially at an early age, and Nigerian cultural and traditional affiliation seems to have worsened the plight of widows in the nation.
Death of one’s husband is often seen as an ultimate loss, which, invariably, is accompanied by grief. Aside the psychological trauma a woman undergoes at the loss of her beloved, she is further made to go through hell in the hands of some, if not most members of her husband’s family.
Some people claim they are customary practices she has to undergo as part of their culture, not putting into consideration that she is also human and grieving as well. There are some practices that reduce the dignity of a woman. For example, in some eastern states of the country, after the demise of a woman’s husband, she is forced to drink the bath water of her late husband’s corpse to prove her innocence.
Some practices involve the shaving of the woman’s hair as a sign of respect to her dead husband. Her movement is restricted as she is forced to remain in a room for a period of time as a sign of respect. She is faced with the decision of allowing a relative of her deceased husband to either inherit her and her late husband’s property or face the risk of being forced out of the house without having access to her children, forgetting that she has her worries on how her life and that of her children will be with the absence of her husband and their father.
Mrs. Chioma Eze (not real names) said, "It is so inhumane when people fail to understand what you are going through and want to further put you through more torture by forcing you to undergo rituals to prove your innocence of not being responsible for your husband’s death. I went through hell in the hands of my husband’s relatives when I lost my husband about five years ago. I was accused of being responsible for his death because our relationship was never approved by his family from the onset; I married him because I loved him so much, but never thought he would be leaving that soon."
The persecution faced by a widow is more, especially if she is childless, as in most cases, she is evicted from her matrimonial home. Childless widows face very traumatic situations; even the widows with only female children also face very harsh conditions, as female children are not entitled to inherit as their male counterparts.
Widowhood comes with a stigma in most societies which often leads to psychological and economic stress as the woman is left on her own to cater for her needs and that of her children, especially if her children are still very young. Her responsibilities at this point are increased which could in turn lead to lack of interest in life. Withdrawal which if left untreated, can lead to feelings of isolation and even suicide.
Mrs. Adaobi in her submission said, "Though it has not been easy, I thank God for how far He has led me. When my husband died about eleven years ago, his family members abandoned us. I was left to my fate to cater for our five children, though I lost one in the process.
"Lots of promises were made to me by some of our family friends, a good number of them were helpful, but most of them wanted something in return and as I was not ready to compromise my faith, they decided to turn their back at us.
"Things would have been easier for me if my parents and siblings were financially buoyant. They were the only ones who out of nothing, did everything within their power to assist us in whatever little way they could."
"Cultural diversity Mrs Eze observed, in a multiethnic society makes each group unique in its cultural practices. The destruction of a culture is to destroy the root from which human society sprung from. However, retaining a culture that is oppressive is destroying the oppressed.
Making widows undergo rituals after the demise of their husband is barbaric and should be condemned in its entirety."