A group of women in Anambra State on Thursday staged a peaceful protest against the “barbaric” and “unwholesome” practice of forcing widows to drink the water used in washing the corpse of their late husbands.
The protesters made reference to incidents in Atani community in the Ogbaru Local Government Area of the state.
The women rights activists who gathered at the Anambra State Children, Sexual and Gender-Based Violence Court in Awka, the state capital, displayed placards with various messages including “Stop violence against women and girls in Anambra State”, “Ogbaru men and women, allow our widows some peace,” and “Stop all obnoxious laws and harmful widowhood practices in Anambra State.”
The Chairperson of Violence Against Persons Prohibition in the state, Hope Okoye, who addressed journalists during the protest, described the peaceful protest as a way to make their voices heard.
Okoye also described the protest as a clarion call on communities in Ogbaru and any other parts of the state to review existing obnoxious and barbaric traditions and get rid of all harmful practices against women and widows.
Okoye said, “All well-meaning indigenes of Ogbaru and indeed, Anambra State, both at home and in the Diaspora, should lend their voices in speaking against every form of ill-treatment against women and widows, not only in Ogbaru communities but also in all parts of the state.”
She called on the administration of Governor Charles Soludo, through the state’s Children, Sexual and Gender-Based Violence Court, to protect women and widows in the state and ensure that perpetrators of harmful practices in the state are brought to justice.
The protest came a day after a 75-year-old man, Albert Eligbue, from Atani community was arraigned before the Chief Magistrate of the Anambra State Children, Sexual and Gender-Based Violence Court sitting in Awka for allegedly forcing her sister-in-law to drink water used to wash the corpse of her dead husband.
Albert, a brother of the deceased, had reportedly forced his sister-in-law, Mrs. Patricia Eligbue, to drink the water used in washing the dead husband’s corpse in order to prove that she was not responsible for the husband’s death.
The widow reportedly told the Anambra State Commissioner for Women and Social Welfare, Hon. Ify Obinabo, that after her husband’s death, she had been subjected to all kinds of physical abuse from members of her husband’s family who call her a witch.
Patricia said one day the husband’s siblings assaulted her and her only child after accusing her of being responsible for all the misfortunes happening to them.
According to her, it was after the incident that her relatives came to her aid. However, she said her husband’s family members did not allow her to leave with her relations, insisting that she needed to stay till after the burial ceremony of the husband’s nephew who had also died.
Patricia further explained that on the day of the burial, she was summoned inside the room where they kept the dead body.
They reportedly placed a cutlass on the body of the deceased and asked her to walk over it four times.
After she walked over the corpse with the cutlass four times, they washed off the corpse and forced her to drink the water before pouring the rest of the water on her.
One of the alleged perpetrators, Albert was arrested and arraigned before the court on Wednesday on five counts.
The prosecutor, Inspector Onyema Ayogu, told the court that the defendant was facing five charges bordering on conspiracy to commit felony and assault, an offence punishable under sections 495(a) and 190 of the Criminal Code Cap 36 Vol. 11 revised laws of Anambra State of Nigeria, 1991.
But Albert pleaded not guilty to the charges preferred against him, hence, the Chief Magistrate, Osakwe ordered that he should be remanded at the Nigerian Correctional Centre, Awka.
He was granted N500,000 bail and must provide a surety who must either be the traditional ruler, traditional prime minister (Onowu) or President General of Atani community.
The case was adjourned till June 7, 2023.