Effects of Cultural Practices on the Women of Today

Cultural practices are diverse and cut across so many ethnic groups and sometimes religions. These practices are placed in high value due to the long usage of a particular group of people. And the people of that community are bound by them. A large number of the practices today are as a result of the ones that have been used and till today, some are still held tightly. While others have watered down into extinction. The women of today are so affected by cultural practices because a lot of them seem to violate their rights.

Some cultural practices have been fought with and have been seen to have gotten some recognition. Others still go on in silence just like the infamous FGM, Female Genital Mutilation (insert my previous article on FGM) amongst others.

Women of today

 Before the present day, these cultural practices were held by the people to be kept sacred and not to be contested by anyone. Even if these practices were harsh they were to be practiced or risked sanction for breaking hundred years of old tradition. In Nigeria, some practices include shaving a widow’s head, starving and imprisonment of a widow, FGM, child marriage, and some specific rites of passage.  

Women in the years before kept these practices and followed suit even though it felt unjust nothing could be done. These practices have left society at a disadvantage and are barriers to social development. The several ethnic groups cut across different cultures and are deeply rooted in cultural determinism and religious beliefs.

Culture is all-encompassing in today’s society, it is a whole collection of spiritual,  and intellectual features that characterize a person and even if we say, that we live in the 21st Century, culture still has a tight grasp on the necks of many individuals as a shared behavior. The culture of a group helps them to create rules from the experiences before them and defines their values.

Gender Discrimination

 One particular aspect that culture aided is that of gender discrimination, in the average African tradition, a woman is seen as inferior to a man. Now I am not talking about the usual “rib creation” story. But the fact that women were considered weaker than men. Also, the fact that women usually ended up in their husband’s houses after leaving their fathers’. And till death be headed by a man. This basically sealed the deal throughout the time women were discriminated against.

Even in ancient Muslim culture, it was believed that the worth of a man was equal to two women. Cultures around the world silence women perceiving them as just a man’s extension and in some even objects. In Igbo culture, a woman is not to be trained educationally. Even if she is, she does not further into secondary or higher education because she will eventually bear the last name of her husband.

Women also do not inherit the property of their fathers and do not attain chieftaincy titles. Women are hushed and dismissed at men’s gatherings. Culture aided and supported just the men and enabled them to thrive whilst the women wilted away. If she was not her husband’s companion, she was a baby-making factory and that was all she would be good for.

In rare cases where women spoke up, she was hushed and seen as wanting to be or assume the position of a man. The women of today regarding gender discrimination have proven to be strong and willful. As the tides are changing, women now attain certain positions. Women can now inherit properties, and although there are still grounds to cover, the steps are no longer the same.

Widowhood Practice

Widowhood occurs when a married woman loses her husband and she is referred to as a widow. She is often accused as the killer and is subjected to severe social and cultural sanctions. In most Nigerian societies particularly the Igbo and Yoruba, the widowhood practices are degrading and inhumane. The widowhood practices differ from custom to custom and cut across various parts of Nigeria.

Firstly it takes place as the mourning rites. A widow is required to shave her head and wear black and unattractive clothes for the period of mourning. In some cultures, she is locked up in a room with her husband’s corpse for days or even to drink the water her husband’s body is washed in. In some other cultures, she will be isolated and locked in a room for at least seven days without food or water and if she survives it, she will be clean of her husband’s death.

Some ghastly rituals include having sex with the male relations of the husband’s family, restriction of diet, and forced marriage with the husband’s brothers or uncle.

In northern Nigeria, widowhood rites among Muslims are also dehumanizing. However, the wives are not prime suspects for the husband’s death. Popularly, they are just subjected to long confinement or physical abuse by their in-laws. The widows are more prone to oppression and in a mode to survive as their inheritance is stripped from them. 

Female Genital Mutilation

Female Genital Mutilation is a gender-based violence against women. It is a practice that comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia. Or other injury to the female genital organ for non-medical reasons. It is commonly known as “female circumcision”.

It is a ritual of cutting or the removal of some part of the external female genitalia. After this process, the circumcised one is perceived to be reborn in areas where FGM is believed to increase a woman’s probability of conception with intercourse. Due to the nature of the practice, there are immediate side effects that will lead to long-suffering of the victim. In some cultures, FGM is seen as a passage of rite into womanhood. In others, it is seen as a way to increase a woman’s probability of conception with intercourse.   

Wearing of Hijab

In Muslim culture, women are supposed to wear their hijab. This is a garment worn to cover the head. In Islamic teachings, it has been said that women should cover their heads in order to achieve modesty. It applies to girls from age nine or less. It is culture and a practice that has been around for as long as the religion/ culture has been in existence.

In the years that have followed some see the wearing of the hijab as a choice. While some see it as an oppression violating one’s freedom to look and appear how they deem fit. Although feminist efforts have repeatedly dismissed the hijab as both degrading and subjugating to male dominance, there is a new argument on how the hijab can protect women from harm. Should tradition be compromised for choice/right to thrive? 

News stormed the internet but went viral on X (formerly Twitter) in July of 2023, where a Somalian woman was brutally beaten by her brother for dancing on TikTok without her hijab. However, a lot of controversies have followed suit. While many found it amusing and the right approach to the situation, it certainly is not.

 In the 21st century, the wearing of hijab has slowly morphed from a necessity to a matter of choice. Some women around the world wear hijabs of their own free will and are not forced or imposed on them by their families. Women who practice Islam wear hijabs as a direct instruction from the Quran stating that women should cover their heads. Some women live in communities where it is a cultural practice even though not demanded by the household, they still wear them.

Even though the culture of wearing hijab sprung up from religion and has now been infused in culture women should have the choice to wear hijab or not and even when the choice being made does not conform to norms, such women should not be discriminated against.     

Culture is the people, the people who hold and believe in it. What happens when culture is cruel? And threatens the life or harms its people in the guise of preserving it. In a personal light, it should not stand and should let the women breathe.  

Tarinabo Diete

Tarinabo Diete is a law student and writer from Nigeria. She consumes art just as she does her coffee. She has published for several articles and magazines. As a bespoke fashion designer, voice over artist and writer. . She stands between the crossroads of storytelling,education, and art of bespoke fashion .When she’s not trying to survive school She tells stories about the places she’s been, the people she’s met and shows how she sees the world through her ink.