I have a story to tell. It’s not a personal story but it is an agonizing tradition that happens very often in some villages in a village not too far from mine and my mother's friend was forced to undergo it. I have always known about this tradition but for the first time, I know of someone who had suffered it. It happened April 2011. For anonymity, all the names will be changed and the village will be unmentioned but it’s in the Eastern part of Nigeria (I love that country!) Here goes:
She had a meeting scheduled for 8am that morning in the morning but the harrowing Lagos Monday morning traffic made her arrive late and with no time to settle down on her desk, she rushed off to the meeting room to join the other management team for the weekly management meeting. The meeting was over by 10.25am and Mrs. Philips returned back to her office and as she began setting up her table, her phone rang. Twenty two missed calls. It was her sister-in-law, her husband's elder sister, Mrs. Emenike.
'Good morning Aunty' Mrs. Philips sang into the phone and was about to inquire after her sister in law's family and kids when Mrs. Emenike cut her off with a long hiss.
'Where have you been? I have been calling you. Are you not supposed to be with your dead husband’s body?’ Mrs. Philips was dumbfounded. Dead? Husband?
‘Joe is in Holy Cross hospital, and that’s where you should be’ her sister in law concluded and banged the phone. It finally hit her. Her husband, Mr. Joe Philips who she left in the house few hours ago was in the hospital. Mrs. Philips, rushed off to the hospital and there she met her sister in-law and her husband’s two younger brothers. Mr. Philips was confirmed dead due to ‘Heart failure’. He simply had slumped and died as he stepped out of the bath tub. An autopsy which her husband family insisted must be done revealed same. Heart failure.
A month later, Mrs. Philips traveled to the village to bury her dead husband whom she loved so much and the father of her three under aged children. As part of the burial rites she was told by her husband’s family that she will have to shave her hair entirely till the scalp shone and the water that will have to drink the water that will be used to bath her dead husband before he is embalmed to prove she was not the one who killed her husband. She couldn’t believe her ears. She will willingly shave her hair if that will make her late husband’s family happy but she will never drink the water used to wash his dead body. That is inhumane and unhealthy! But that was only the beginning of her woes. She turned to her sister in law whom she had always been good friend with, to speak for her, but she received a shocker. Mrs. Emenike told her she had to drink the water to prove her innocence. Every one turned their backs to her.
Her refusal to drink the water was termed that she killed her husband and the punishment was that all her children will be taken away from her and given to another family member to bring up. She will also no longer be regarded as a part of her late husband’s family. Mrs. Philips could not bear her children taken away from her and the longer she refused to drink the water, the longer her husband stayed in the mortuary. For the sake of her children and the need to bid her husband farewell and peaceful rest to the world beyond, she drank the water. And shaved her hair.
Mrs. Philips is one of many women that have undergone this dirty traditional practices that subject women to inhumane acts and degradation of dignity.
Today I speak for Mrs. Philips and other women who have been abused emotionally, physically and morally by traditional practice.
Stop this.. its inhumane..