Women in Awka, Anambra State, on Thursday, staged a peaceful protest against “barbaric widowhood practices” in the state.
They demanded the stoppage of the ritual where widows were forced to drink from the water with which their late husband’s corpse was bathed preparatory to a burial.
The protesters were led by Hope Okoye, chairperson of the Agency on Violence against Persons Prohibition Act in Anambra.
The women gathered at the Children, Sexual and Gender-Based Violence Court in Awka to protest against the alleged maltreatment of a woman – a plaintiff in a case – by her late husband’s family.
A brother-in-law of the plaintiff had reportedly forced the widow to drink from the water with which her husband’s corpse was bathed before burial.
The protesters carried placards with inscriptions such as: “Allow our widows some peace”; “Stop All obnoxious laws and harmful widowhood practices in Anambra”.
Ms Okoye told reporters that it was time the Anambra government paid attention to the practice and put an end to it to protect the girl child and women from harmful practices.
She called on community leaders, particularly at Ogbaru Local Government Area of Anambra to end all forms of harmful practices against women and widows.
“We demand that the government ensure that justice is served to perpetrators of unpleasant widowhood practices against the girl child, women and widows, irrespective of their social status.
“The practice is not limited to Ogbaru communities as it has been observed that other parts of Anambra still perform the ritual,” she said.
In her remarks, one of the women leaders, Eucharia Anaekwe, said she once led sensitisation campaigns to various communities in Anambra to end the practice.
“I am so shocked that the Atani community in Ogbaru Local Government Area of Anambra still engages in the practice,” she said.
One of the women who led the protest, Ugochi Freeman, called on youths in Anambra to lend their voices to the call for the abolition of the harmful practices against women in their various communities.
Mrs Freeman stressed that efforts to abolish traditional harmful practices should be accentuated by youths as future leaders who would become mothers, sisters, wives, daughters, spouses and in-laws of other people.