Women And Harmful Traditional Practices


Most societies the world over have traditions which existed for generations, some of which have persisted and endured the test of time.  The more enduring a tradition becomes, the more resistant to change and eradication it becomes.
Some of the traditional practices have positive effects on society as a whole while some others adversely affect only a segment of society.
Some traditional practices have neither known positive nor negative effect on society, just as others still have clearly verified negative effects harmful to health, especially among women.  It is crystal clear that the main executors and perpetrators of this harmful practice s have generally been the men.  Traditional practices are generally, culturally relative and a culture that gives its relevance to any traditional practices and their meanings and relevance.
So, the eradication of such a culturally bound tradition would warrant or require a cultural change, and of course, any cultural phenomenon is resistant to change. It, therefore, becomes imperative that a means to obtain such desired change has to be established.
This is why the Rivers State Ministry of Women Affairs has affirmed its commitment or determination to play a leading role in the fight against all kinds of ill-treatment to widows, women in general and the girl child in the state.  The Permanent Secretary, Dr (Mrs) Justina Jumbo, who said this during the 2015 International Widow’s Day celebration in Port Harcourt recently noted that widows were not being giving the best treatment in most parts of the state due to their tradition or belief.
In his speech, the chairperson of the occasion, Pastor Biobele Adesola, cautioned the widows against flirting and prostitution and noted that all barbaric and harmful practices against widows ought to end in the interest of womanhood.  She lauded the state Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, for his plans to end all harmful practices against widows in the state, pointing  out that widows have been stigmatised, reproached by their various communities and seen as outcasts.
She listed drinking of water from the corpse of their husbands and sleeping with the deceased’s body as some of the ill-treatments meted out to widows and charged the widows to be fair to their step-children, who she said were there for their protection.
In a paper delivered at the just concluded 11th Nigerian Guild of Editors Conference in Yenagoe, Bayelsa State Capital, the National President, International Federation of Women Lawyers ( FIDA), Mrs Hauwa Shekarau, urged Nigerian Editors to create awareness on the Violence Against  Persons Prohibition Act.
Speaking on the Act in her paper, Mrs Shekarau, said it had become necessary to publicise the act because of the daily incidences of violence against women in the country.   “Apart from the domestic violence and other types of violence that we are seeing, what is very fearful is the sexual violence that is happening in our society”, she stressed.
She added; “Sexual Violence against children, including infants, and sexual violence against old women give us a lot of great concern” and acknowledged the efforts of some journalists for availing such information to the public through newspapers and other social media.
According to her,  there is need to embark on dissemination and creation of awareness on the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act for Nigerians to know about it, while asking the editors to enlighten the people on some harmful practices against women, especially the treatment given to them in some parts of the country when their husbands die.
Psychologically, it has been established that most of the traditional practices harmful to women and girl-children have detrimental effect on the psychic and mental balance of the victims.  They have psychological consequences,  such traditional practices as female circumcision, yankin gishiri, evulectomy, kunun kanwa, surgery of eye lid, inner checks, hot baths, among others are harmful.
Female circumcision is predates Christianity and Islam and has been practiced in the Western World centuries ago.  The origin of circumcision dates back to the time of Abraham in which, according to the Holy Bible, God entered a covenant with him to circumcise his male children, which means removal of foreskin that envelops the male reproductive organ.  But attempts to trace the origin of female circumcision has not yielded any fruit and it has been difficult.
Some, however, claim female circumcision originated in Egypt following a support position obtained from archaeological discoveries which indicated that female mummies were circumcised. In the Western World, records show that female circumcision was practiced by feudal lord of Europe, as well as instantly jealous husbands.  From all available evidence, it appears that the motive factor is that female circumcision reduces promiscuity coupled with some traditional initiation practices.
It should been known today that female circumcision is irrelevant as it is the handiwork of ignorance that it is still practiced in most communities of the country.  Currently, female circumcision in Nigeria is limited to some geographical areas, among some ethnic and religious groups, and particularly among the rural dwellers. It is, however, practiced in the urban areas, particularly when cultural dictates of ethnic belief system is considered.  Generally, it is believed that female circumcision is still practiced in Nigeria, even as there is no available data yet.
It is pertinent to state that the hazardous practices of female circumcision and other aspects of our tradition which affect the life of mothers and children need to be eradicated. This could be done through regular and intensified campaigns, workshops, seminars by the relevant arms of government and stakeholders.  Other harmful traditional practices aside from female circumcision are tribal marks, nutritional taboos, traditional uvulectomy, teenage pregnancies and early child marriage.
Various traditional and religious harmful practices are practiced in different parts of the country.  It is traditionally acceptable to some tribes or communities to eat dogs, lizards, rats, and termites.
They believe that these creatures contain some nutritional values that their bodies need.
The media have a very important role to play in spreading the gospel of eradicating female circumcision and other harmful practices against women and girl children.
With their vast knowledge of the health consequences of harmful traditional practices and female circumcision, combined with appropriate and strategic use of communication, a successful campaign is expected or envisaged from them.
All those engaged in the crusade against traditional and harmful practices against women must first identify the basic target groups that need to be reached in ensuring that the practices are eradicated.  The target groups are pregnant women, female adolescence, children and widows. Female circumcision for instance, is practiced on children, adolescence and pregnant women or women who are about to be married. The drinking of water from a deceased husband, sleeping with dead husband and sitting on the ground for several weeks when a husband dies are practiced on widows.
If the eradication of these practices is to be achieved, these groups must be educated by modern methods of communication, which will lead to a change in behaviour.
These groups must be seen as involving those already affected and those yet to have a baptism of the practices.  They are allegiance to a primordial group which comprises of the family, kinsmen, chiefs, Obas, teachers, religious leaders and other important personalities to which messages would be directed in their immediate environment.  This primordial group constitute a powerful force of power brokers as regards change in any society.  Any campaign where they are side-tracked will almost be an exercise in futility.  A message carried by them in conjunction with a high delegation of  Secretary to State Government, Commissioners for Health and Women Affairs as well as local government  chairmen will be very effective.
The assemblage and involvement of this group of personalities in the eradication of traditional harmful practices campaign will be valuable.  Another group of people that should not be underrated in the campaign are the youths who are always yearning for a change.
Having identified most of the target groups required for effective dissemination of information on the eradication of harmful practices against women, the important function is now left for the Women Affairs ministry , FIDA, NAWOJ and other women organisations and stakeholders to communicate with these groups with a view to changing their attitude towards the practices.