After numerous conventions, declarations and acts, slavery has been
officially declared abolished. However, for millions of women,
particularly in the "third world", slavery is worse than ever before.
In the name of "tradition" women still live their lives in slave-like
Consider the case of Nkechi, a 14-year old Ibo girl
who is just one of the many girls serving as "slaves of the gods" in a
shrine in the bush. Nkechi is forced to be a "slave" to atone for a
crime; she had no hand in: "illegitimacy". Her duties include unpaid
household chores, religious duties and providing sexual services to the
fetish priests under the pretext of being married to a deity. All these
girls are "atoning" for what is referred to as "Nso-Ani" – sacrilege.
As they get older, they are replaced by younger ones – while the priest
remains unchanged. Like the others, Nkechi is not free to change her
place of residence or work and may remain in servitude for many years.
years back, the nation woke to the shocking story of Hauwa Abubakar who
was withdrawn from school at the age of 12 by her father and married
off to a man fit to be her grandfather. That same year her two legs
were chopped off with a poisoned axe by her husband – for constantly
running back home. Two weeks later she died. In spite of the public
outcry that greeted this inhuman act the practice of child brides still
Another example of traditions with gender-specific
dangers is the case of a Hausa woman killed in the western part of the
country for being out while the Oro was passing through (a masquerade
that women are forbidden from looking at).
All these acts, it is true, are perpetrated by men against women, but they take place within a definite socio-cultural milieu.
these acts are not happening somewhere in the remote past, but in 21st
century capitalism. Lenin described capitalism as "…horror without
end". The brunt of this horror is borne most cruelly by women,
especially in tradition-steeped "third-world" countries. After its
conquest, the forces of finance capital could not institute in the
backward regions it conquered those institutions already put in place
in its birth place which, compared to those previously existing, marked
a step forward. Rather, as it expanded into the colonies it adopted and
adapted these feudal-medieval institutions and traditions to its rule.
failed to improve the condition of "third-world" women, in relation to
those in the advanced capitalist countries, even in a formal sense. She
was, instead, subjected to a more remorseless oppression and
exploitation. Thus, today, the Nigerian woman continues to suffer
centuries-old torments in addition to more brutal subjugation.
the various conventions guaranteeing her rights she continues to be
fettered by a thousand and one traditional rites that degrade her;
deep-seated rites that erode her freedom and dignity.
barbaric practice in which she was bequeathed to her husband’s
relative; forced to drink corpse water; shave her head and sit naked
for days, etc, in the event of her husband’s death still exist for her
and refusal to perform these rites is met with the severest cruelty.
Those not killed outright or driven to suicide are treated as outcasts
and pariahs – they are not "seen" nor "heard".
to her northern counterpart the southern Nigerian woman lives in
"paradise". The northern woman is incomparably more fettered. She is
the "slave of slaves"; to be disposed of as her parents and husband see
fit – like the case of Hauwa, cited above. She is deprived of all
rights whatsoever and confined to the home or purdah, as the case may
be; given in marriage and made to bear children at a very tender age,
The complete subjugation of women is enshrined in the
society. The church and mosque supports it – "submit yourself to the
will and desire of your husband," they command.
morality, has a class basis. It serves the interest of the ruling
class. The struggle for emancipation of women is part of the struggle
of the working class to transform society, because the subjugation of
women is rooted in the subjugation of one class by another. Only the
overthrow of class society can put an end to it. It is not just a
struggle for women. It is not a struggle against men. It is a struggle
against the root cause of all human baseness; all indignities to which
the human soul is subjected – the capitalist system. Make it your
By Gaye D. C.,