disconsolate as she sat in front of her thatched, mud house. There was
no one to keep her company apart from her little ‘bingo’ dog and a host
of chicken strolling round her premises. Occasionally, she used the
horsetail in her hands to chase the dog away from the chicken. In the
animal world, it would not be out of place to conclude that the animals
were playing hide and seek in this peaceful environment. That, however,
is not for Nwanyidinma.
she was just out there watching the movement of the leafy orange trees
and palm trees in her neighbourhood.
has a heavy heart. Not that she has lost anybody in recent times, but
she has a bigger burden occupying her inner recess as she watches the
dog, the chicken and the trees.
children (all females) and those close to the octogenarian know too well
her challenge. Her bigger headache borders on what happens to her late
husband’s property if she passes on. Her husband had died several years
ago. Her only son had also passed on. In fact, her son died in his early
demands, women have no right to inheritance of property, especially
landed property. And here lies the octogenarian’s headache. Her three
daughters are living happily with their husbands and children. So who
takes over all her husband’s landed property? Who takes over the pear
trees, palm trees and other natural inheritance belonging to her
husband? Will her husband’s brothers/relations inherit all the wealth
and property, things she and her husband laboured strenuously to
there was an estranged relationship between him and his brothers, an
action that further severed their relationship. Will these ‘enemies’, as
it were, now take over all the wealth?
any other thing, occupied her mind. However, from a neighbouring
village, information has it that a young unmarried girl had been
impregnated. The person who she claimed got her pregnant had denied
paternity and her parents were on the verge of disowning her for
of her house, she was thinking of how she would send a delegation to
the young girl’s family to seek her hand in marriage. If the girl’s
family agreed, she would bring her and her unborn child to her home. The
overall game plan is perhaps that if she puts to bed and the child is a
boy, he will naturally belong to the family.
that. She went and married the pregnant young lady, whose unborn child,
she believed, would automatically become her grandchild and a bona fide
heir of her property.
Nwanyidinma in some Igbo communities, especially in Mbaise, who ‘marry’
other women in order to have male children in their homes.
known, are practising a tradition that is long accepted in the
communities and which has gone a long way to solve a need, a need to
perpetuate a family name.
another typical example of a ‘female husband’. The 68-year-old widow had
an only son, Donald Igbokwe, who had died in an accident over 30 years
ago. He was unmarried.
extinct. His aged mother made sure she married a woman for him ten years
ago and the young lady has had four children –three boys and a girl-
for the deceased.
correspondent, said it was necessary she married a woman for her late
child in order to keep his name alive.
anybody in my place would do. My child died tragically. He was my only
son. My husband had died many years ago. So I had to marry a woman for
my late son. My son’s wife now has four children. The children of
course, answer Donald’s name.”
basically between a man and woman. However, there are cases where
marriage between a woman and another woman is permissible.
that in this case, it is not in any way, lesbian marriage even though it
is same gender marriage. The marriage is traditionally and socially
acceptable but it is not sexual. There is certainly no sexual attraction
between the ‘female husband’ and the person being married for either
late husband or son, as the case may be.
looks for the wife, makes the necessary enquiry about the person and
then provides the bride price and other necessary stuff required for the
marriage to hold.
always accompanied by male relatives who would be the ones to actually
ask for the lady’s hand in marriage from her family.
ask for the hands of the women in marriage, traditionally. But everybody
knows the new wife belongs to the female husbands, but during the
course of marriage rites, the ‘female husband’ stays at the background.
dead, then her late husband’s male relatives will accompany her and
would even be the one to marry the wife in his name. A woman can’t just
get up and go to a family and say she wants to marry another woman from
that family, it is not done! However, after the marriage ceremony, when
they get home, everybody knows that the new wife is the ‘property’ of
the aged woman and she would live in her domain,” he said.
almost as old as forever, has become the norm and both parties – the
female husband and the wife- are not stigmatised in any way.”
usually elderly and have passed the age of child bearing. In most cases,
the woman may have been childless or had just female children. The
women just want heirs who would take over their property and wealth when
they are gone.
for her late husband, 70-year-old Adanma Ikem from Ezinihitte Mbaise,
said she had had four children, two males, but her sons had died
tragically even before they could get married.
their 20s. Their death was so painful. I cried my heart out. I cried not
only because I lost my children, of course, it was a painful
experience, but I cried because I just thought of how my husband’s name
would just die like that. Who would perpetuate the name? Our lineage
would just be forgotten. My husband had died earlier on. My daughters
had married. So I was left with no other choice.
was lucky, I found a girl who was pregnant and she was willing to be a
part of my family. I and my relatives went and paid her bride price. She
has been living with me for many years now and she has five children,
three boys. The children are mine now and at least, our family name will
not just die like that,” she said.
have a son could actually ‘marry’ a wife for her ‘fictitious’ son for
the same reason as procreation.
marry the young wife for her husband, rather, she got a wife for a son
she never really had.
that. But I still couldn’t allow my family name to die. Somebody told me
about this girl who just had an unwanted pregnancy and I enquired about
her. I and my husband’s relatives married her under our native law,”
marriage and back then, adopting a child wasn’t fashionable. In fact, in
my village, it was more acceptable to go and marry a wife that would
have children for you than to even adopt a baby. So, I had to (with my
husband’s relatives of course) marry a wife into my husband’s home. She
has been delivered of so many children,” she said.
wife) starts procreating and giving births to children, the kids would
automatically bear her surname (expectedly, she would have changed her
maiden name to that of the family that married her) regardless of who
the biological father of the child/children may be.
fathers of these children. In fact, they could best be described as
sperm donors; they certainly do not have any other responsibility on the
woman or the child she eventually gives birth to.
be any point where the man would come out and claim he is the father of
any of the children the woman eventually gives birth to.
into the picture at all. There is no way the man would come out and
claim paternity of the children. Nobody will even listen to him. He
doesn’t have any parental right to the children. The children conceived
in this kind of arrangement would bear the late man’s name even if their
biological father does exist.
or presidents tomorrow, their biological father can never come out to
claim them as his. There is nothing like paternity test. Don’t be
surprised, the woman may not necessarily inform the man about her
pregnancy. Even if the child ends up having a striking resemblance with
the biological father, nobody would relate them openly in any way,” he
revealed that most of the men who impregnate these women are usually
married men who wouldn’t want to expose their escapades.
sleeping with men from neighbouring village. Smarter ones go far away to
have relationships and consequent pregnancies. But then, in all, both
parties know the reason for the relationship. The man will not come to
claim the child and the woman will not go to him for any financial help
towards raising the child,” said Uduma Ike, a village head in a
community in Aboh Mbaise.
head of the home that takes care of the wife and the children that she
will have in that family. Nobody expects the biological fathers of the
children to contribute to their welfare. Even if the fathers would help,
they wouldn’t do so openly. If the child is sick, there is no way the
woman will take the child to the man and ask for money for hospital
bills even if he was the one that got her pregnant. She dared not even
tell anybody in the village that it was this or that man that got her
pregnant,” Ikem said.
got married five years ago, to a man she never met or heard of. Her
supposed husband had died so many years ago and his first wife, Udoka,
who didn’t have any male child, had married her into the family.
boys, refused to tell our correspondent who the biological father of her
kids is but insisted that she is ‘legally’ married.
who the father of my children is. It is private. But the truth of the
matter is that I am a married woman and my husband is late. Whether my
late husband is the father of my children, it is not anybody’s business.
But my children are answering their father’s name and nobody would
claim that he fathered them; that is absurd.”
relationship with her older co wife and the person who ‘married’ her,
said she also has strong respect for her.
‘Mama’. They regard her as the mother and not grandmother. My kids even
see me as a big sister and not their mother. I have a great relationship
with mama. It was through her that I came to live here.
into this home, I have my place. I don’t disrespect mama. We don’t have
equal rights in this house. She is my benefactor and she would be the
one that takes care of us,” she said.
another example of a woman married to a ‘female husband’. Eziudo, in her
early 30s, said she was raped at an early age of seventeen and she got
spoon. Nobody wanted to have anything to do with me. Even my parents
were so embarrassed of me as if I wanted or enjoyed to be raped.
community came to marry me for an aged man who was more than 60 years
older than me, I had to accept. It wasn’t as if I jumped at it but I had
the plans of bringing another wife to the family since she was childless
and since the man was very old. She wanted somebody who would have kids
so that the family name would not die.
was married. But I have had four kids since then. Nobody worries me or
asks me who got me pregnant each time. I am a married woman and nobody
feels I am doing anything morally wrong,” she said.
adultery/ fornication, but in these communities, it is not regarded as
such! There is no way the offspring that come from this arrangement
would be seen as bastards.
condemn this act. It has been traditionally and socially accepted in
these communities. There is nothing wrong with it. It doesn’t make the
women less moral. It doesn’t mean they are prostitutes. The children
conceived in this process are not bastards and nobody would dare to ask
them ‘who is your father?’ Of course, we all know that question is the
highest insult you can give to any Igbo man or woman.”
children conceived in such arrangement to open up was not so easy as
most of them threatened to deal with our correspondent for asking such
year student of Imo State University, who decided to talk to our
correspondent after being promised that his identity would be protected,
said he knew about his history but doesn’t have the powers to do
anything about it.
adult, I learnt my father had died so many years ago, even before I was
born. Curiosity made me to ask questions. I asked and persisted before
my mother had to open up to tell me the whole story.
biological father is. But then, I will not call myself a bastard. I know
my father. He is late. Even though I never met him, I still believe he
was my father. I cannot allow myself to worry over things and
circumstances that are beyond my powers. Since nobody has tried to
insult me, there is no reason for me to feel bad about it,” he said.
names) said she found out much later in life about her history but still
believes that she has one father and not even the person whose genes
stage when I was much older, I had to wonder why most of us don’t look
like her or like the picture of the person they said was our father. It
aroused my curiosity and I had to ask my grandma who I am close to. She
was the one that told me the circumstances surrounding our birth. I am
not worried. All I know is that I have a father, I cannot say that I am a
marriage, a sociologist, Mr. Monday Ahibogwu, said the issue is a
prevalent one and has been in practice for a long time.
reasons for this. If the man in the family is not mentally balanced and
he is the only progenitor in that family, a woman in the family can
decide to marry a wife on behalf of their brother who is deranged. The
new wife would be excused to have male friends who would get her
pregnant and then, her children will still bear the name of the man who
is not mentally balanced. This is culturally acceptable.
children are females and they are all grown up and married, one of them
can decide to marry a wife in their late father’s name. The sons the
woman will have will be for her father. She has her own children but she
marries a wife for her father in order to be children in her father’s
marry wives for their husbands because they couldn’t conceive. These are
the reasons why some of these things happen.”
forbidden to stigmatise them. You may even be ostracised by the
community if you try to stigmatise them. They are part and parcel of the
community. The reason they are brought into this world was to fill a
gap. If a child feels bad that he is conceived in such arrangement, then
that is his personal feeling and not the feeling of the society.”
paid the bride price of a woman and she has kids for you, no matter
what, the children belong to her family and not yours. You are just a
sperm donor. Unless the bride price has been paid, the children belong
legally and culturally to her parents.
she gets pregnant in the process, the children still remain those of the
dead and have the same inheritance. The person who got her pregnant
cannot come to claim them.”
have the same characters especially if the woman gets pregnant for
different men, Anibogwu said usually, characters of children are
determined by the way they are brought up.
character because of their DNA but don’t forget that most times,
character is usually a product of upbringing and not necessarily DNA.”