These are two social problems that are confronting the Igbo today in the modern setting. These issues have affected many and are of concern also to those not yet affected. It is not impossible that tomorrow they may be grappling with such challenges. How do Igbo react to these? Is it affecting Igbo negatively or positively? How do Igbo resolves social problems like this?
In the first place, Igbo resents and abhors abortion except in the case where the foetus is wrongly positioned and there is the need to save the head of the woman. It is a taboo in Igbo land to abort and those encouraging it do not like the progress of the person so involved. Igbo does the not spill blood. So how do Igbo manage pregnancy out of wedlock especially as it relates to sexual relationship?
In Igbo culture, sexual relationship between man and woman is not that condemnable. What is an offence is forcing a woman into the act against her wish. That is abominable. Sleeping with another man’s wife is a taboo too or the other way round. A man sleeping with his sister or his own daughter is a crime. These are some of the ways Igbo look at sexual relationships.
If a man and woman engages in sexual relationship out of wedlock and the woman gets pregnant, according to the old time tradition the woman will give birth to that child in her father’s compound. Since she was not married that child will bear the name of the man that gave birth to her mother and would also be entitled to the wealth of the family among the mothers siblings.
If the child is a woman her marital rites would be performed in that same family except if the man changes mind to perform the normal marriage rite that entitles him to take the woman. The Igbo are methodical and logical people in the way they follow their issues. In some places, the culture may demand that she be married to a man that is already married.
They may also allow the child to follow the mother in the marriage that is after the man has performed all marriage rites. The man can adopt the child. This is the reason in some parts of Igbo land you see people who are referred to as coming with their mother or their mother was married with their pregnancy. This is acceptable in Igbo land. That a woman has earlier given birth does not stop her from marrying.
What is unacceptable and abominable is terminating a pregnancy. It is a taboo. It is none of the few fall outs of civilization in which people have carried on now as the new normal. Igbo do not also allow or tolerate single parent. Any child from sexual relationship out of wedlock must bear the name of the grandfather. A woman does not train a child in Igbo land. That child is called (Ezi oma) (good thing from outside) because it is also a good thing.
The brothers of the mother, the men, will join hands in training the child. the grandfather will also join effort. Igbo do not go to motherless babies home to pick a child. The Igbo do not also run a motherless babies home because a child comes from somewhere. If it is not from the mother, it comes from the father and would be accepted. It is said that if something runs after a man, he either runs to his mother’s or father’s place, all of which belongs to him.
There is a kind of authority/power a man has more than a woman in the position of a child in Igbo land and is the reason any child born stays in the father’s place and it is the father that is given the child. That is how the Igbo have arranged it. It is the father that gives him the root to stand.
There are many young women who have given birth but keep hiding and lying to men about it. This destroys relationships where the man and woman may have gone far and the truth is unveiled. It is better to speak the truth from the beginning so that each determines ahead his or her own position. I have been receiving questions on this from many people. That a young girl has given birth in her mother’s home does not mean that she cannot marry again.
In some places before she is married the man first gets married to another woman and marries her as the second one. There is also no where it is written that an Igbo man must marry only one wife. No, it is not our law because Igbo are people who organized their affairs well. There is also no rule that a woman getting married must throw away her child.
All women going to marry move along with the child to their husband’s home except where the family of the woman pleads that the child should be left behind to play some roles. Naturally, all women take their children to their husband’s home. This is not the beginning. There are women who cannot avoid sexual urges till they get married and the resulting child from any pregnancy would not be thrown away.
The woman will eventually be married because any sampled product must be bought by someone. In conclusion, my final take for men and women who want to marry, that a woman has given birth does not foreclose a marriage. Some are not deliberate actions. Some take in and abort and that is blood shedding which is evil. This is what is hindering the progress of many people because the spirits of some aborted children may continue to hunt the person.
As traditional people it is a taboo to shed blood especially the blood of an innocent child who committed no wrong. Sometimes it prevents women from conceiving again. Let’s be more careful. What the church condemns as sin sometimes in Igbo tradition is no crime. It is not the end of the road for the woman. Whatever evil that is originating from Igbo land is caused by the church.
Today the woman levies charges of infidelity against the man and there is trouble where as the man can marry more than one wife as the culture demands. Please we should know who we are because the way our forebears properly organized things in the manner it accommodated everything. Everything Igbo does is rooted spiritually.