Yoruba ritual known as "ogunwejemo" whereby a victim of rape (and possibly her children) is killed by her family; any known fatalities and, if so, where and when; attitude of state authorities [NGA33618.E]

No information on the Yoruba ritual known as "ogunwejemo" whereby a victim of rape (and possibly her children) is killed by her family, could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

However, two native Yoruba persons stated that it is difficult to say yes or no as to whether such a ritual exists (25 Jan. 2000). They described the Yoruba culture as very complex with numerous divisions and with numerous cultural practices and histories. These sources are: a doctoral candidate in Linguistics at the University of Georgia who is a Yoruba language instructor in the university's Department of Comparative Literature and a Professor of African Languages and Literature at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, who is also the Director of the National African Language Resource Centre. Her responsibilities include Yoruba language studies. She is herself Yoruba and visits Nigeria regularly.

The Professor of African Languages and Literature said that while she herself was not familiar with this particular ritual, nor of the reference to it as ogunwejemo, that does not mean that it did not exist (25 Jan. 2000). However, she stated that if it did exist it would be in the past, but that it "is not likely to exist at this time." When asked if a small Yoruba group in a remote village might still engage in such a ritual she said that she "really doubts it" and that she "can't think of anywhere that it might now occur." She drew a parallel with tribal rituals such as human sacrifice in which the community openly participated in the past. She said that while ritual murders still occur, they are not done openly or with community involvement. She said that this would be true also of a ritual in which a rape victim is killed by her family: if it did occur, it would occur privately. As such, she said that if a rape victim were in fear of falling victim to such a ritual, she "could easily move, even within Yorubaland" away from the remote area in which this ritual is feared to be possible.

The doctoral candidate wrote the following in response to questions about this ritual:

I have been hard at work (looking through references and talking to other Yoruba people both in person and online). These plus my own knowledge of the culture, I can state that rape is not something condoned within the society. For the victim, it is indeed considered a shameful experience. It is not uncommon for families of rape victims to feel so ashamed that they want to "wash" the problem away. Indeed, the shame is always so odious that living can be almost impossible. However, I have no personal knowledge (nor does any of the other native Yoruba people that I talked to) of any of the ritual that involves killing the victims, though I must say that if such a ritual exists, it will be highly secretive.
As you can see from the above outline, it is difficult to reply Yes or No to the existence of an 'ogunwejemo' ritual in Yorubaland or comment about the contents of such a ritual. If such a ritual exists ... I have never heard about it (25 Jan. 2000).

The following information was provided by a Senior Lecturer in the Department of English, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria, who is also Yoruba. He states that he

consulted my proverb corpus on rape-related Yoruba proverbs, experts from the Institute of Cultural Studies, the Department of African Languages and Literatures, Department of History, and the Centre for Gender and Social Policy Studies, all in my university here, and have not got a confirmation of the existence of any such ritual among the Yoruba.
Regarding rape in general, it is usually the perpetrator of rape that is punished and not the victim. In traditional Yoruba culture, the punishment usually entails paying compensation to the victim or the victim's family. In Yoruba language, this material compensation is known as "OJI". In other words, I'm not aware of any Yoruba "practices or attitudes that would serve to directly punish rape victims".
Murder is viewed as a very serious crime in Yorubaland and by the Government of Nigeria; some of the experts that I consulted therefore [cannot] believe that ... a Yoruba ritual exists which involves the ritual murder of rape victims and their children by the families of the rape victims ... (28 Jan. 2000).

For information on Yoruba proverbs related to rape please consult the attached article from Contemporary Women's Issues (Fall 1998).

For information on Nigerian societal views on rape please consult NGA33078.E of 3 December 1999 and NGA16040.E of 10 January 1994.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Doctoral Candidate in Linguistics at the University of Georgia, Athens. 25 January 2000. Correspondence.

Professor of African Languages and Literature, University of Wisconsin, Madison. 25 January 2000. Telephone interview.

Senior Lecturer, Department of English, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria. 28 January 2000. Correspondence.


Contemporary Women's Issues. Fall 1998. Yisa Kehinde Yusuf. "Rape-Related English and Yoruba Proverbs." (NEXIS)

Additional Sources Consulted

IRB databases

Keesing's Record of World Events [Cambridge]. 1960 -1998.



Resource Centre. Nigeria country file. October 1997 - January 2000.

World News Connection (WNC)

Three non-documentary sources contacted did not provide information on the requested subject.

Unsuccessful attempts to contact two non-documentary sources.

Internet sites including:

Post Express [Lagos]

Nigeria News Network

Search engines including:

About.com (Human Rights)



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