Marriage customs in Nigeria and the role of the police in protecting women regarding the institution of marriage. What are the penalties for changing one's mind about getting married to a Colonel? [NGA6114]

Information regarding marriage customs in Nigeria, the role of the police in protecting women and the penalties for changing one's mind, is not currently available to the IRBDC. However, the complexity of marriage customs can be illustrated by marriage among the Yoruba. According to the Yoruba of southern Nigeria, marriage is viewed as a union of lineages rather than individuals and in some cases "Kin often arranged marriages...when the parties themselves were children" (Mann 37). Among the Yoruba a distinction is made between customary marriage and Christian marriage. Customarily, relatives played a very important role as they were the ones that evaluated the marriage partners in terms of suitability based on the prospective mates ability to "bear children, work diligently, and meet obligations to affines" (37).

Once a man's relatives had approved the union, there were a series of rituals to be performed. These ranged from a meeting to negotiate bridewealth followed by a ceremony (isihun) at the home of the bride during which representatives of the man's lineage "offered kola, bitter kola, refreshments and possibly a small amount of currency, which the woman's cognates shared to show that they accepted the betrothal" (Mann 38). The man's kin then paid the final installment of bridewealth (Idaanon) shortly before the woman joined her husband's household and finally, the woman moved to her husband's residence during a ritual called igbeeyawo. Christian marriages on the other hand, appealed more to the educated elite and " played a major role in identifying and defining the elite. It contributed in important ways to elite formation and maintenance" (45). Christian marriages presented Yoruba men with a dilemma. The Yoruba regarded polygyny as the ideal form of marriage but this violated Church teaching although it did not deter them from forming unions outside of marriage.

According to an authority on Nigerian affairs, the police may not have the necessary resources for addressing the problems of women being threatened by males in the society (information received during a telephone interview on 29 June 1990). Although there is no general answer to the aforementioned question, the source states that it is important to acknowledge the different variables involved. These include the social and economic standing of both the man and woman, the determination, strength and nature (re: maliciousness) of the man, the region where police protection is being sought and the size of the gifts involved (bridewealth). The source also reports that because the Hausa are Moslems, they are permitted to marry up to four wives, so long as they can provide equally for all.

Corroborating information regarding the above statements is currently unavailable to the IRBDC.

For information regarding the police in Nigeria, please find excerpts from the following documents:

Report on Human Rights in Nigeria, Lagos: Civil Liberties Organization, 1989, pp. 7-10.

U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1989, Washington: U.S. Government Printers, pp.268-280.