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“Boycott your fathers’ burials if they deny you right to their property”, Anambra FIDA Chair to girls

The Anambra State Chairperson of the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), Professor Ogugua Ikpeze has called for a review of the Igbo cultural stance that denies the women the right to claim their fathers' property.

Professor Ikpeze is also of the opinion that the issue of bride price in Igbo tradition, should be abolished.

These formed part of her presentation at a training workshop for legal practitioners, civil society and the media on the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Act 2015, held in Awka.

It is a norm in Igbo land that dates back to the existence of people of the race, for the family of a girl to receive a certain amount of money or other items as bride price from the suitor.

It is also common practice that once a woman is married, she is not customarily entitled to any of the property of the father.

Arguing against the tradition, Professor Ikpeze pointed out that such aspects of the people's tradition that do not guarantee the well-being of the girl-child, adding that over the years, these practices are driving the negative trend of girls engaging in all manner of demeaning ventures for survival.

"Our girls should be allowed to claim their rights to property in their fathers' houses. Because our girls do not have the right to anything, they do all manner of things to survive. A lot of Igbo women are into prostitution all over the world. Research has shown that while their parents award the property to their male siblings, they do not get anything which in turn, makes them join such dehumanizing activities to break even. The implication is that what we are calling tradition is destroying our women and the VAPP Act and other laws have come to abolish all these.

"I have always advised women, if their father refuses to give them any of their property, let them tell them that they will not attend their funerals and endeavour to keep to their words. Let us see how a funeral will look like when there are no women. As women, we need to stand up and claim our rights, not through violence but with resolve and hard work," she said.

On the issue of bride price, the Professor of Law alleged that by paying bride price, there is the thinking that the woman has been bought and therefore is treated as property.

"It is the mentality of subjugating women into the property that inspired the agitation that bride price abolished. I have participated in a traditional event where they were calling as much as 400,000 as bride price. And it is like nobody cares about what happens to the girl after the bride price is paid. Why are you selling the girl? Bride price in any form, to me, represents slave trade and this is frowned at by Section 34 of the Nigerian Constitution," she pointed out.

She identified societal silence and complicity by arrowheads in the communities as factors driving the continuous perpetration of such injustice against women.

According to her, "Any tradition that does not promote mutual growth and development should be jettisoned. It is only when we do the right thing that we will see justice in our society and our society will start to progress. There is always the fear that when you fight evil, something bad can happen to you but it is not true. In the hinterlands, a lot of this evil is being perpetrated by community leaders. We should be able to report all these things.

The issue of women subjugation should be flagged and treated as an anomaly. That is why we are sensitizing our women to resist being sold as property and urging parents to train their girls and make them be of value."