Women and Property Inheritance in Igboland


Female children in Igboland have suffered so much neglect and exclusion from being involved in their family inheritance due to our cultural beliefs and tradition which invariably position the women as temporary children.
In Igboland, they are subconsciously seen and treated as less important to the family, yet when serious needs arise in the family they are looked upon for solution; the reason being that male children perpetuate their father’s generation, unlike the woman who gets married and bears the name of her husband.

Also, a female child has no hope of inheriting from her father’s property and as such she must get married. She is deprived of even partaking from her husband’s estates in the event of his death especially if she has no male child or that her children are still very young. This could be worsened by the activities of the shylock relatives who would want to take undue advantage of her situation to have everything to them.

In some cases, the husband’s family arranges and marries a younger lady for the man in order to have male children and the first wife, who actually laboured with the man is relegated to the background and eventually pushed out of the house when the male child eventually comes from the other woman.

In spite of this seemingly dark side to our culture, Igbo women are expected to remain in their husbands’ house no matter any maltreatment meted out on them by their spouses or family members because they, as women, do not have a place in their fathers’ houses. This has often brought untold suffering to most of our women, especially the uneducated ones.

There have been cases where Igbo women end up begging in streets or spending the rest of their lives in strange lands because they cannot go back to their fathers’ houses after being sent away by their husbands’ families.

Most Igbo women are often subjected to the widowhood tradition where they are forced to drink the bath water of their husbands’ corpses especially when they die under mysterious circumstances. They are also forced to sleep with their husbands’ corpses on the same beds during the night of the wake-keep and afterwards swear before a village shrine to prove their innocence or otherwise.

Until recently that our women are taking up career jobs and can actually live independently and acquire landed property, some Igbo women were marrying men that were far older than their age while some ended up as second or third wives, just to have a home.
We, Igbos, practise the Jewish tradition, where women are seen as second fiddles.

In the first instance, we believe that we have Jewish origin. In Jewish tradition, in most cases women are not considered as eligible beneficiaries of their father’s heritage. In our understanding, women do not remain permanent in their fathers’ houses, they are married out to their spouses, so there is no reason to inherit their father’s properties any more.

It is only problematic where a woman neither lives in her husband’s house nor in her father’s. Any married woman should focus on her husband’s house and not think of inheriting her father’s property too.

If a married woman loses the husband, automatically she becomes the next of kin, and her husband’s property should be shared to her too. But in a case where the widow may have maltreated her husband to death, the Umu-Ada and the Umu-Nna may want to pay her back by denying her the right to her husband’s properties.
We, Igbos, condemn a situation where some families deny the widow her right for no just cause, saying, It is not always good to intimidate women in their husband’s houses. Give to every woman her due right for peace to reign.
For a married woman to come and struggle for her fathers’ properties, we do not agree to that, because it shows greed. Civilization has introduced will, in which a man (owner of the property) chooses who inherits any of his properties when he dies.

Written by Dunu Okigbo


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