Age-old customs are necessary to maintain one's culture, but what happens when these customs become outdated, or even dangerous to one's health? It was interesting to find an article that illustrated some customs in Nigeria that are still being used to this day to attract potential husbands, but two customs are questionable at best.
Bride confinement and fattening, also known as "Mbodi", are two of the customs that are strictly enforced on women of marriageable age. Practiced by Efik and Ibibio from the south eastern part of Nigeria, a potential bride is confined in a room where she will be fed to "fatten" her up for her mate. What is disturbing is the image of a woman being force-fed to eat, with the goal of looking "healthy" for her husband. It is believed in their culture that women who are "fattened" are seen as healthy and will attract a good husband. Confinement can take up to a few weeks and the women who are confined are not allowed to interact with anyone outside of the women who feed her.
Another custom that is equally disturbing is genital circumcision that is performed before a woman is wed. This custom is done during the period of "Mbodi" to ensure the bride's virginity is intact and avoid shame on the bride's parents. This practice is believed to be a crucial part of their culture but has sparked such controversy due to its severity.
While I see this is a disturbing practice, like fattening an animal before being served, or checking to see it the subject is "good enough" to be married off or bear children, it is a custom that has been practiced for hundreds of years. It is shocking to know that while there are numerous women of today who are trying to eradicate these practices, old customs die hard. Fear of being ostracized by their community or being labeled as promiscuous bear more meaning for these girls whose goals are to provide for their families and not cause them shame.
This was an incredibly hard topic to tackle and it took me awhile to determine why. As a journalist, I write about topics that may interest my readers and hopefully garner some response. As a mother who has a teen daughter, it's hard not to feel anger and shock over what these girls are subjected to in order to provide for their families. I can't possibly know what it takes for these girls to do what is expected of them with regard to this, but isn't it time for age-old customs like these to be stopped? Isn't the health and well-being of these young women as important as providing for their family? I don't know the answers but hope that this topic sparks some conversation and provide ideas on how to maintain one's customs without putting women's health in jeopardy.
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