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Traumas Of Widows

(Last Update July 12, 2020)

By GLADYS OSEMWEGIE (25/09/2017)

All enduring marriages ultimately end with the death of the husband or the wife or both. The death of a spouse may be the most extreme life crisis because, it means some of the deepest emotional bonds established in a life time. However, the disorganising and traumatic experience, which accompanies death of husbands, tends to be greater on women than that of men when they loose their wives. Whereas the wife immediately becomes the primary suspect for her husband’s death, the man is immediately offered an appropriate substitution to comfort him upon the loss of his wife. This is because, from time immemorial, societies have always been male dominated and are still so all over the world. Women have always been relegated to the background and traditions and customs of Nigeria clearly rob women of their rights and privileges. We have a cultural setting that invariably promotes male domination and female subordination.

Stemming from this fact, women are treated like chattels (property), especially widows and the prevalence of witchcraft accusation, widows are subjected to a trial by ordeal (as prime suspect in the demise of their husbands.) The severity of these trials vary in different states and local government areas. In order to prove their innocence, they are subjected to a variety of ardous and degrading rites that violate some of their human rights and erode self-esteem. One of such, is the customs of inhuman mourning such as “wailing loudly for several days before their husbands corpse. Widows whose wailings were adjudged as inadequate were accused of being responsible for the death of their husbands.

After wailing, follows the moment of confinement/ seclusion either in their husband’s house or in several huts for various periods of time. During this period, widows experience several degradations and deprivations. Several practices are introduced to make widows uncomfortable and unattractive. Hair from different parts of their bodies are scraped and burnt; some wear mourning clothes which are never more than one set, they are denied basic comforts such as bath and their normal food habits are restricted.

Disinheritance tends to pauperise some widows so much that they lack the means of sustaining themselves and their children, particularly if they do not accept relatives allocated to them as their new husbands for where this custom is practiced. Widowhood practices differ from one location to another even within the same domain, however what remains a general fact is in addition to her loss and its attendant consequences, she is subjected to the whims of a culture she has no control over and to which she must submit herself to.

It is barbaric and the violation of the human rights of these widows to be subjected to such terrible and dehumanizing customs. This bring to my mind what happened in my neighbourhood. An affluent Bini man died and on the day of the burial, the body of the dead man was washed and the widow asked to drink the water from the dead man’s body as a proof of her innocence. This was a woman who had lived with the husband for over 28 years and had seven children for him (4 boys and 3 girls).
Why would she want to kill him? Anyway, the first son rushed into the house and came out with a sharp cutlass and brandished it before his kinsmen warning them to back off and anyone who insist on his mother drinking the water used in washing his father’s dead body would have to get to him first before his mother. The cowards all ran away and the children buried the father without those terrible customs. The family rumoured that because custom was not followed, calamity was going to befall the children. Thank God today that the seven children are doing very well. So those so call traditions are balderdash.

Widows are human beings like every other person and have their fundamental human rights. It is high time we stopped this barbaric acts against the women folks as they are either our sisters or over mothers. It is only a lazy persons, be it children or relatives that fold their hands and wait for their brother’s wealth to be handed over to them. Let us do away with all forms of barbaric customs and traditions because there is always a repercussion for every evil deeds. Please, let the society leave the women alone.

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