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Edo Women
 

THE LAWS OF PATERNITY

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In the olden days there was no question of disputed paternity as it existed in our Native Courts of the fifties, when there were myriads of bastards in the modern sense. Every woman of child hearing age was covered by certain laws of ownership hence the Esan proverb, El MIEN OBHI IDOLO from IDO LU or done secretly, which means that no man can claim the issue of a secret dealing. Therefore the laws guarding paternity were as follows:

CHILDREN FROM LOVERS:

(a) If the woman was an Arebhoa, then the issues were for the woman’s father that meant their natural grandfather was their legal father.

(b) If the woman had an intended husband then the issues belonged to the intended husband who might not be natural father.

CHILDREN FROM A WOMAN SEPARATED FROM HER HUSBAND

(a) If the bride price was not yet paid back to the husband the issues belonged to the first husband irrespective of who impregnated the woman.

(b) if the dowry had been fully refunded by the woman’s father or as sometimes happened by the woman herself , the issues were for the woman s father if he paid the money back; but if the woman refunded the dowry herself, the issues were for the man who put her in the family way if the man later married her; if he did not, the practice was for the suitor who came along later to make arrangements to cover both the mother and her child who then became his child, in order words the woman’s father had an extra large bride price.

CHILDREN FROM ADULTEROUS UNION
All the issues belonged to the lawful husband.

CHILDREN FROM IBHALEN ASSOCIATION
¡f two kindred met and pregnancy followed the child belonged to the intended husband. If she had none, the child was for the girl’s father or for extra large dowry, to the man who came to marry her.

CHILDREN FROM WOMAN WHOSE HUSBAND WAS A MINOR
All the children were the lawful children of the minor and they took precedence over the natural children the man would get when he had overcome his minority. This was not permitted in the case of an Onojie - To be recognized as SON AND HEIR of an Onojie, the child must be fully legitimate.

A CHILD BORN BY A WIDOW
If the woman was generally known to be pregnant before the husband died, the child when born later was the child of the dead man and such children were usually named UMOERA (You have no father). This must not be mixed up with the name OMÓERA (He has a father), which. In Esan is the name given to a child whose father was seriously ill when the mother was pregnant, but he lived to see his child.

In certain parts of Esan the law is El MIEN OBHI ELINMIN Dead men cannot have children) hence in such places before the woman delivered she had to be inherited so that the child belong to the inheritor, Sometimes if the pregnancy was very early when the husband died, and by the third month it was still not known generally, the man who inherited her successfully claimed the child. It was immaterial if she gave birth to a child six months after the last husband’s death. This should cause no surprise because in certain parts of Esan ‘B’ a man could adopt his father’s youngest son from another mother, as his own first son particularly if it is vital for him to perform certain ceremonies like OGBE before he had his own son.

If a man who for one reason or another had been unable  to get his wife to be pregnant, had formally given her permission to try her luck outside (strictly as laid down by Esan custom expressed as  A MUN OLE OBO BHE UGHE, the issues were lawful children of the !awful husband.

As already noted under the law of inheritance, OMON OSHO issues from love affair had no legal status customarily. He could not inherit property and did not appear at ancestral worship, but if a man had kept a girl and she bore him a son while still in her father’s house and he later paid the dowry on her (not a refund) he could claim this boy as his first son. If he did not, but married another woman who hore him a son, this particular son would be his heir-that is the child from the lawful wife.

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