Abolishment Of Custom Where Daughters Are Forced Not To Marry In Order To Perpetuate Their Fathers’ Lineages. Daily Law Tips (Tip 524) by Onyekachi Umah, Esq., LLM. ACIArb(UK)
Often, many Africans seek to be perpetuated and remembered on earth not for their discoveries, inventions and good works rather for their harvest of numerous children.
Also, many wish to have only their male children inherit their assets and property often to the exclusion of their daughters. No doubt, this places unfounded greater value on male children. By some cultures in Nigeria, where a man has no male child, female children are requested and or forced by their parents not to marry rather to live forever with their parents while bearing children for their parents through sexual relationships with unknown/undisclosed/uncelebrated men. This is designed to ensure male children are born to inherit and continue the blood lines of fathers.
The above narrated culture has been abolished by the appellate courts and recently reiterated by the Court of Appeal in its 2019 judgment in the case of MARK v. IRONU & ORS (2019)LPELR-47026(CA). The court held that,:
“Though the Respondents predicated their issues 1 and 2 on grounds 2 and 4 of the appeal, respectively, I think the said issues appropriately capture the whole essence of and complaints in the appeal, especially as the issue of 5th Respondent being instructed by her father (Ironu) not to marry, but stay to procreate off-spring to inherit him (Ironu), did not appear to be of any consequence in the judgment or form the basis of the judgment of the trial Court. This is because, though the trial Court acknowledged the existence of such custom, and said, “that is an age old accepted Igbo custom that to perpetuate a man’s lineage, his unmarried daughter can give birth in his home and by that arrangement that child is as much the man’s child as any child born by his wife.” The trial Court also noted: “The custom referred to by the claimants exist in the parties community. However, that custom cannot help the claimants in this case in view of the decision in the case of Muojekwe Vs Ejikeme (2000) 5 NWLR (Pt. 493), wherein the Court of Appeal in considering the application of Nrachi custom which is similar to this custom the claimants have alluded to, stated… “I strongly feel that Nrachi custom is no longer worthy of application with modern trends… In the main, it is a farce, a window dressing designed to cheat the women folk. I have no hesitation in declaring that that Nrachi custom is against the dictates of equity. It is no doubt repugnant and contrary to natural justice, equity and good conscience. It is not worthy of application and I declare it as being unenforceable in the judicial realm and no Court of record should countenance or take judicial notice of it. In the result, a female child does not need the performance of Nrachi ceremony on her to be entitled to inherit her deceased father’s estate.” I place reliance on the aforesaid decision, to hold that the custom whereby a father keeps an unmarried daughter at home for the purposes of procreation in order to perpetuate his lineage is repugnant, and contrary to natural justice, equity and good conscience. I will discountenance it in arriving at a decision in this case.” See pages 295 – 296 of the Records of Appeal. That was well said by the learned trial Judge, and in my opinion, that settles all the allegations that the alleged custom applied in this case. I also think that decision should curb or cure the desperation of parents seeking for male children in African culture. Such desperation often results in many terrible/harmful practices and recourse or resort of the couples or one of them to get or procure a son at all costs, and at the expense of the girl child, and/or ill-treatment of wives/widows, not blessed with a male child. There are many decided authorities of this Court and the apex Court banishing discrimination against female children and upholding their right to share in the estates of their parents. See the case of Ukeje Vs Ukeje (2014) 58 NSCQR 531; (2014) LPELR – 22724 (SC); Igbozuruike Vs Onuador (2015) LPELR – 25530 CA; Duru Vs Duru (2016) LPELR – 40444 CA; See also Section 42 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended. Thus, parent(s) without a male child, need not resort to the ridiculous extreme to deny his daughter right to marry, to confine her to immorality and amorous relationship with strange men, under her father’s roof, to satisfy her parent(s) desperation for a male child to carry on his name, or perpetuate his lineage and inherit him. Children are gifts from God, who creates them, males and females gives and same as He wills, and every child should be received with utmost thanks, appreciated and nurtured to one’s aspiration and ability, whether male or female, knowing that the child is entitled to succeed him/her (Parent), whatever the child turns out to be. One who is so obsessed about perpetuating his name on the earth should, in my opinion, rather work hard to leave worthy imprints on the sands of time by leading a good life of service to God and humanity; go into discovery, patenting, authorship of book(s), etc., and establishing good will. He does not necessarily require harvest of children (who may turn out to be vagabonds). In fact, great men/women in history are not perpetuated or remembered for the children they had, but by who they were and what they did, while alive.” Per MBABA ,J.C.A ( Pp. 24-28, paras. B-A )
1. Section 42 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.
2. MARK v. IRONU & ORS (2019) LPELR-47026(CA)
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