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Author Topic: Nigerian Community Where Old Women Marry Young Ladies  (Read 123 times)

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Nigerian Community Where Old Women Marry Young Ladies
« on: June 04, 2016, 10:29:11 pm »

Culled from Punch;
Eighty-three-year old Nwanyidinma looked disconsolate as she sat in front of her thatched, mud house. There was no one to keep her company apart from her little 'bingo' dog and a host of chicken strolling round her premises.

Occasionally, she used the horsetail in her hands to chase the dog away from the chicken. In the animal world, it would not be out of place to conclude that the animals were playing hide and seek in this peaceful environment. That, however, is not forNwanyidinma.

The weather was cool and breezy and so she was just out there watching the movement of the leafy orange trees and palm trees in her neighbourhood.Beyon d this natural scene, Nwanyidinma has a heavy heart. Not that she has lost anybody in recent times, but she has a bigger burden occupying her inner recess as she watches the dog, the chicken and the trees.
But Nwanyidinma's three remaining children (all females) and those close to the octogenarian know too well her challenge. Her bigger headache borders on what happens to her late husband's property if she passes on. Her husband had died several years ago. Her only son had also passed on. In fact, her son died in his early 20s; unmarried.

As the tradition in her Mbaise community demands, women have no right to inheritance of property, especially landed property. And here lies the octogenarian's headache. Her three daughters are living  happily with their husbands and children. So who takes over all her husband's landed property? Who takes over the pear trees, palm trees and other natural inheritance belonging to her husband? Will her husband's brothers/relations inherit all the wealth and property, things she and her husband laboured strenuously to acquire?

By the way, before her husband died, there was an estranged relationship between him and his brothers, an action that further severed their relationship. Will these 'enemies', as it were, now take over all the wealth?

For Nwanyidinma, this dilemma, more than any other thing, occupied her mind. However, from a neighbouring village, information has it that a young unmarried girl had been impregnated. The person who she claimed got her pregnant had denied paternity and her parents were on the verge of disowning her for 'shaming' them.

So as the octogenarian relaxed in front of her house,  she was thinking of how she would send a delegation to the young girl's family to seek her hand in marriage. If the girl's family agreed, she would bring her and her unborn child to her home. The overall game plan is perhaps that if she puts to bed and the child is a boy, he will naturally belong to the family.

Few weeks later, Nwanyidinma did just that. She went and married the pregnant young lady, whose unborn child, she believed, would automatically become her grandchild and a bona fide heir of her property.

Indeed, there are so many likes of Nwanyidinma in some Igbo communities, especially in Mbaise, who 'marry' other women in order to have male children in their homes.

These 'female husbands' as they are known, are practising a tradition that is long accepted in the communities and which has gone a long way to solve a need, a need to perpetuate a family name.

Charity Igbokwe, from Ahiazu Mbaiseis another typical example of a 'female husband'. The 68-year-old widow had an only son, Donald Igbokwe, who had died in an accident over 30 years ago. He was unmarried.
But Donald's name has not gone into extinct. His aged mother made sure she married a woman for him ten years ago and the young lady has had four children -three boys and a girl- for the deceased.

Igbokwe, while speaking to Punch's correspondent, said it was necessary she married a woman for her late child in order to keep his name alive.

"What I did was just the normal thing anybody in my place would do. My child died tragically. He was my only son. My husband had died many years ago. So I had to marry a woman for my late son. My son's wife now has four children. The children of course, answer Donald's name."

Social but not sexual marriage
Granted, in Igbo land, marriage is basically between a man and woman. However, there are cases where marriage between a woman and another woman is permissible.
It is important to note at this point that in this case, it is not in any way, lesbian marriage even though it is same gender marriage. The marriage is traditionally and socially acceptable but it is not sexual. There is certainly no sexual attraction between the 'female husband' and the person being married for either late husband or son, as the case may be.

Explaining more on this issue, a community leader in Onicha, a community in Ezinihitte Mbaise, Nze Ebere Iwuagwu, told Saturday Punch, that the females in question do not really go to a lady's family and seek her hand in marriage.

However, he said, the woman goes out, looks for the wife, makes the necessary enquiry about the person and then provides the bride price and other necessary stuff required for the marriage to hold.

Iwuagwu said the female husbands are always accompanied by male relatives who would be the ones to actually ask for the lady's hand in marriage from her family.

"In our community, women don't really ask for the hands of the women in marriage, traditionally. But everybody knows the new wife belongs to the female husbands, but during the course of marriage rites, the 'female husband' stays at the background.
"In a case where the woman's husband is dead, then her late husband's male relatives will accompany her and would even be the one to marry the wife in his name. A woman can't just get up and go to a family and say she wants to marry another woman from that family, it is not done! However, after the marriage ceremony, when they get home, everybody knows that the new wife is the 'property' of the aged woman and she would live in her domain," he said.

Iwuagwu said this tradition which is almost as old as forever, has become the norm and both parties - the female husband and the wife- are not stigmatised in any way."
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