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LAWS OFADULTERY: (UGHÉLÉMIN OR UGBOGHÉLÉ)

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In the olden days this term was strictly limited to a man having anything to do with a wife of a man of same Egbele, i.e. members of the same patrillineage or people who descended from one father. Strictly, in the olden days (AGBON OBA) it would be difficult for a man to charge another man from another village with adultery. If a man tried to seduce another man’s wife in the district market, the husband would waylay the seducer and attack him. Where the two men belonged to the same village the matter would he referred to the village council. If the charged  was admitted he would be fined a goat which was slaughtered at the ancestral shrine of the Egbeie; certain additional fines were made to be given to the aggrieved husband for purification of the woman before she and her husband could live as man and  Wife again  The clothes she used on the material day had to be discarded and  an ÓMÓNKHUIAN  ( A married daughter of the Egbele) had to perform the purification rite consisting of touching the body all round with a few days chick and  spitting of partially chewed alligator pepper on the sinner’s body referred to as UHÓNMONEGBEA.

If the accused denied the allegation he had the following alternatives: he invited his accuser to swear on a named juju, which if done he would be prepared to suffer any just punishment the Edion might prescribe; he might elect to swear on a given juju, which if he did, before the living, he was innocent If the crime
Was one viewed with real seriousness particularly if woman was the wife of a great personage of the village, recourse might be had to trail by ordeal - ITAN.

In the punishment for adultery the woman suffered the greater physical atonement crowned with subjection to a public ridicule and indignity as a deterrent to other women of the village. All the married women of the village gathered at the Ódión IKHUO IDUNMUN (Senior of the married women) And the delinquent woman was sent for. She was then shaved (In this case to humiliate her), stripped of all her clothes and the terrible stinging nettle leaves were wrapped round her waist and body; a heavy load made so cumbersome that it would require the two hands to balance on the head, was put on her and with her hand all already employed for this purpose, she could not scratch her intensely itchy body She was asked to sing and with this she was danced round the village with her load made heavier by the addition of rubbish which was picked up at every comer of the village. She was mocked and flogged and when her tormentors were at last tired, she was returned to her husband’s, a disgrace to herself and her husband. The goat bought by her co-repondent was slaughtered at the family ancestral shrine. Egbele shared the flesh blessing the man with U-DÓN-LOBHÓ, which means, you had, but we are praying our ancestors that this will not end with loss of libido You will always be a man.

It took that for her crime to be forgiven by the departed ancestors, but it took years for the odium of this crime by this woman to be forgotten by the living. This, with the superstitious belief that if the crime was not reported and necessary punishment suffered, either she or her children or queerly,
Her innocent husband would fall ill and die, made Esan women very faithful.

(a) Adultery with the Onojie’s Wife: This was a crime equivalent to murder and the punishment was death for both the man and the woman. But where the man was a very close relative of the Onojie, as for example, his son or only maternal brother, the Onójie in his absolute discretion, could waive the death sentence and substitute banishment. Similarly if the woman was a particularly loved one or. Was the mother of the most favored son, her life might be spared and she had the option of being sold as a slave. In this case of adultery with the ruler’s wife, the man suffered the greater punishment.

(b) Incest: There were certain crimes more of incest than adultery.

(i) lf a man had a carnal knowledge of his mother-in-law, it was a serious crime crying to the spirits of the departed ancestors for immediate vengeance: it was punishable not only by the usual payment of a goat but by forfeiture of the wife, the erring woman’s daughter. This was the customary punishment for any man who committed adultery with any member of his wife’s family. Again, for emphasis, I repeat that the Octopus called Onojie, who was an institution all by himself, could go beyond what among commoners was known as adultery: he could marry two sisters.

(¡¡) ‘Adultery’ with one’s own mother (it happened occasionally amongst psychopaths of great moral depravity), was followed by a special prescribed punishment; the man had to be born again as he had fouled his present life beyond atonement. The female members of the family were called together and the mother had to treat her equality stupid son as if he was a new born baby; he was carried on the lap, washed, his face smeared with chalk and cam wood, was given the breast to suck, carried on the back and the idiotic mother had to carry her son on the lap to be fed. It must be a most degrading ordeal for both the mother and the incestuous son.

(iii) Sexual relationship between a brother and a sister or people of blood relationship up to SECOND COUSIN, was not permissible hut there was no prescribed punishment; usually the ‘crime’ was undetected until one of the sinners fell ill or a native doctor in a charm session told the parents of either. Reparation consisted of the slaughtering of EBHE IBHALEN (1-do- not-know goat) at the ancestral shrine. Again the woman suffered the heavier punishment and shame; in theory the two sinners had to provide the goat, but in practice the man paid a nominal amount of anything from a few cowries to half the cost of a goat, all that was required of him for the appeasement of the disapproving dead ancestors was that he must pay something towards cost of the goat.

(c) Rape (OBHIGÉDU): lf the girl was still with her father there was no prescribed punishment, but married or unmarried, the crime was quite rare, in that the custom of clitoridectomy successfully acted as a deterrent against premature sexual knowledge. If a girl did have such knowledge before circumcision, on the circumcision day the Owenan (native surgeon) publicly declared her not a virgin to the great shame of the parents and the girl herself. There were fines to be paid to the Owenan: a cock, all her every-day wearing apparels and the mat she slept on. The disgrace of having used a cock to have her circumcision done far exceeded the pain of a fine, and to escape this all girls behaved themselves. Such a girl would be known as girl ‘Nón gbe Ókpa ruele’ - the girl who used a cock to have herself circumcised.

Few erring girls (moral standards were very high before the advent of Christianity, education and parents’ failure to do their customary duties) owned up to their parent at great pains and the Owenan was brined heavily with the usual fines doubled. At such false ceremony there were extra dancing and booming of gun!

(d) Definition of Adultery (OGHLC): Esan sensitivity to interference with their wives could be imagined from what custom accepts as constituting adultery of the following, unless immediately reported, was lgboghele and in practice the immediate report to one’s husband only exonerated the woman but not the man..

1 Actual carnal knowledge or the expression of wish for same - there could be no joking with making the request!
2. Stepping over the extended legs of a married woman.
3. Putting a leg on her.
4, Touching her clothes or her waist beads.
5. Shaking her hand.
6. Tickling her particularly behind and below the Lower ribs.
7 Making eyes at her (like winking at her).
8, Sitting on her or allowing her to sit on a man’s lap.
9. Sitting on the same bed with her. -
10 Beckoning to her while the man is in a room.
11. Giving her monetary presents or lending her money without the husband’s knowledge or approval.
12. Putting a hand round her waist or neck.

With the exception of the actual act, most of these are expressed simply as ÉMÓN-AWAA (Forbidden word), and the accused man was in for an inquisition before the Edion at the Okoughele.

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