I visited an old man of 73 years in my community, Esan, Edo state, Nigeria. In a father and son conversation spirit the man narrated how the Esan women’s infidelity case is handled in Esan community.
He said; from the days of our fathers till now, the Esan community in Edo State as a culture that prohibits her women from adultery. That when a married woman is caught in the act of adultery with another man (married or not), she is punished by the following ways;
1. She will be ostracized from the community and family activities for 21 days. On the seventh day she is either made to carry a native pot containing dirty and smelling water or carry a stone on her head. It was reported that this signify shame and disgrace she brought upon herself and womanhood.
2. She will be beating with fresh green leafs as she walk across the community, with the pot or stone on her head. This is reported to signify the ridicule she has brought upon her husband, as a result of her promiscuity instead of keeping herself pure as green as the fresh leafs. He also said, it symbolizes purification.
3. A sorrowful song of mockery – sang by the women as they mock and flog her round the community. In response, the woman will keep saying “wòwò méé ye lòò,” which means; “I promise I won’t do it again.”
4. The woman must observe the 21 days sober reflection period and must not cook for the husband and children, and should not be seen in the market place during this days.
In other case; If the women commits adultery secretly and was not caught in the act, and she did not confess it publicly, the consequences are;
1. In the old days, her husband will fall sick and eventually die within 7 to 21 days, but recently it was reported that it is the woman who dies.
2. Also, in the old days, after the death of the man, and the woman still refuses to confess publicly, the children will start dyeing starting from the first child, but recently it was reported that it is only the woman who bears the punishment i.e. the sins of the woman cannot be upon the children and husband.
3. If the husband of the woman is knows about the woman’s infidelity but refuse to communicate the atrocities of his wife to the community elders, because he is ashamed of the punishment the family will face, he will bear the spiritual punishment of sickness and eventually die.
The big question is “if the man is caught in adultery or did not confess the act, what is his punishment.”
The old man told me that; by tradition and human nature, all men are polygamous; meaning a man can be married to more than one wife, but in the case of adultery; the man is charged with a fine, either a certain number of goats or its cash equivalent. He will also be ostracized from community meetings for sometime.
My conclusion is this; I am from Esan community, but I don’t believe that this cultural way of punishment is fair to the women and effective all together. The policy is incomplete and barbaric. I see it to be act of satanic subjection, propaganda on gender inequality or marginalization of one group or the other.
Even Jesus rebuked the mockers of the adulterous woman in the Bible, who condemned the woman only. We can see this abnormalities started long time ago. Please don’t quote me wrong; I am not of the opinion not to punish the adulterous woman, but we should make fair cultural judgement policies, or best, use the teachings of grace and conscience judgement.
This is one of the reasons why most men leverage on the ordinary fines or been ostracized from community meetings for some times, which can still be covered with money; and keep indulging in adultery.
Folks! Please if you have a contrary view let us know.