“Local practices, traditions demeaning women in Africa must be abolished” – MIASA Expert

Sika Togoh
Sika Togoh
5 Min Read

Senior Lecturer at the University of Nigeria , Nsukka and MIASA Fellow, Dr Ngozika Anthonia Obi-Ani has called on African governments to take concrete steps to work with traditional authorities to repudiate long existing local customs and practices which trample upon the dignity of women in society.

The call comes on the back of the Merian Institute for Advanced Studies in Africa (MIASA) holding its  7th public lecture series as part of its activities to help its fellows and researchers to present papers and findings to inform public policy and expand the spread of knowledge in the academic discourse community for the 2022/2023 academic year.

The colourful and well attended event drew a large audience from academia, public policy analysts and journalist as well as the general public for the lecture.

The theme of the lecture was ” Our Mothers are not free; The Ndi’iShi Tradition and Social Control Among the Nsukka Igbo , Southeastern Nigeria”.

Speaking at the event, Dr Ngozika Obi-Ani indicated that there must be deliberate steps by governments on the continent to eliminate or repudiate backward practices in local communities which demean the value of womanhood and perpetuates the gender imbalance which has existed decades ago and treats women as tools of control for a largely patriarchal society.

She focused on the Ndi’ishi tradition of the Nsukka people in Southeastern Nigeria where married women alleged to have had extra-marital affairs without the express consent of their husbands leads them to be mentally deranged and subsequently forced to undergo certain rituals in local shrines as atonement for their alleged infidelity.

” Unfortunately , as the world moves on into modernity where gendered barriers to growth and development in societies are breaking down , countries in Africa still practise barbaric and oppressive traditions like pertains in parts of southeastern Nigeria where among the Igbo people , research shows that the Ndi’ishi tradition exists where married women are forced to enter shrines for cleansing by local priests after allegations of infidelity are put on women and society judges them without giving them a fair hearing.

These women who might be innocent of the charges are required to undergo demeaning rituals just to prove their faithfulness to their husbands in order not to suffer mental conditions which is believed by the locals to be punishment for women sleeping with others than their legally married partners.

There must be clear political will and laws to reduce the pervasiveness of such outmoded cultural practices which infringe on the rights of women in society especially a male dominant one which wants to reduce the value of women and tie their fortunes to only the whims and caprices of men under the guise of so called traditions”.

Also, Dr Obi-Ani added that it was instructive to note that such practices completely frees men in society in terms of responsibilities in marriages when it comes to male infidelity and unfairly stereotypes women as the gender who must be subservient in relationships between male and female.

She was of the view that such practices reduces the self esteem of women who want to be leaders in society and helps to project the idealistic idea that males are vastly superior to females.

” Even though some of the traditional practices in African societies pre- civilization were meant to create social control and set moral standards, most of the practitioners have resorted to such repulsive methods of using the dictates included in the practices to unfairly treat the victims or offenders in society which serves more harm than good.

Both men and women must be treated in equal measure when it comes to retribution for crimes committed or alleged to have been committed in order to engender confidence in the society’s laid down procedures to check moral excesses instead of using it as a tool to support both genders to create a progressive society”.

Dr Ngozika Obi-Ani is a Senior Lecturer at the Department of History and International Studies at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.

Her research interests are multidisciplinary connecting history, conflicts, sociology ,Health and gender studies, as well as urban and cultural and memory studies.

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