Personal Social Status
Social status can be defined as the reference, prestige, or honor ascribed to an individual’s personality or position in society. It could be attained by virtue of family or racial background; or through innate ability or life achievements. Some other factors that determine one’s social status include gender, occupation, religion, lifestyle, and education.
While culture is usually defined as a way of life of a group of people within a geographical setting, however, there also exists an individual level of culture known as personal culture. Personal culture is usually an expression of oneâ€™s personal beliefs or philosophy and perspective on life issues generally. It is usually a reflection of an individualâ€™s upbringing; which is made up of culture, lifestyle and belief system the person is exposed to. Others are gender, history, education, residency location, and disability (â€œSocial Categoriesâ€).
It is common for one’s culture to be predominantly dominated by society’s general customs; that, however, does not negate the existence of the personal views of life. In large societies where diverse cultures exist, it is common to see some cultures dominate others. These cultural diversities can be seen in almost everywhere with a large population made up of different subgroups. While these subgroups are generally classified under one tradition, the culture disparities could, however, still be noticed. The disparities are owing to differences in historical backgrounds of each subgroup. They mainly impact people’s inclination and preference to various elements of their existence. It usually defines their identification, approach, and habits. One of the habits generally affected by culture disparity relating to gender is healthcare.
Cultural Heritage of Igbo People
The Igbo people are the indigenes of the Igboland, which spreads across six states of the Southeast geopolitical zones of Nigeria, West Africa. While the origin of the Igbo people has been subject to various speculations from different researchers and opinion leaders, these people, however, have elegantly maintained their inherited reach cultures from their ancestors (â€œIgboâ€).Being the second largest region in the southern part of the country, the land, as expected, it consists of different subgroups, which explains its cultural diversity. The diversity has made it easy for an average Igbo man to live, survive and expand anywhere as they are usually found holding their own outside their enclave both within and outside the country. The critical elements of the Igbo people traditions include their reach recipe, dressing, language and occupation.
However, while the Igbo people are always hailed for their reach cultures, high level of intellectualism, and hard work, there are other sides of the cultures which have been widely criticized by many for being too antipeople and antidevelopment. Just like many other African traditions, the Igbo culture has little regard for female gender; and from the practice of this culture, it can be seen that patriarchy is usually relegated. Some of these socio-cultural biases against Igbo women include widowhood discrimination, female genital mutilation, and girl child marriage.
In Igboland, the widowhood began immediately a womanâ€™s husband is dead and diverse rituals are expected to be performed by the widows. The culture has no regard for the emotional state of the newly widowed woman whatsoever. It is compelled on her to fulfill all righteousness as stipulated by the culture regardless of her perception towards the practice and her feeling at the given time. In Ebonyi, one of the states in the region, for instance, widows are subjected to different levels of rituals depending on the position of the deceased husband. While these rituals vary from different education level and social status in a given community, there still exists, however, those that must compulsorily be carried out irrespective of the background of the deceased or the widow. One of the mandatory rituals is the compulsory wailing and rolling on the floor by the widow to justify her widowhood. Chukwu, Emeka, Obi, & Kalu, (2014). This is expected from the widow right from the passing of her husband until he is buried. Another widowhood discrimination in Igboland is the economic hardship widows, and their dependent children are usually subjected to after the loss of their husband. Using a case study of one Mrs. Gertrude Melo as a reflection of economic hardship meted out against widows in the region, Chuckwu et al (2014) narrated how Melo husbandâ€™s siblings maltreated her and sent her away after selling off their properties and handling a paltry 20,000 naira (less than $150). The poor widow and her two sons were rendered homeless and sent away from their home. While there have been calls from different quarters for the abolishment of widowhood discrimination in Igboland, the laws of the land have not done enough to curb the archaic tradition.
Many court decisions, according to Nwogwu (2015), are in support of these customs that portray inequality and discrimination against women in the region. Part of the position of the customary law regarding widowhood and ownership of properties states that â€œwherein the court held that the Onitsha Native Law and custom postulates that a married woman, on the death of her husband without a male issue, with the concurrence of her husbandâ€™s family, may deal with his (deceasedâ€™s ) property; her dealings, of course, must receive the consent of the family.” With laws like this, achieving the right of the widow in full will be difficult in the region.
Female Genital Mutilation
Another socio-cultural violence against women in the land is the Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). FGM, according to Chuckwu et al (2012), is â€˜â€˜an unnecessary gruesome and crude surgery that involves partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to female genitalia organs of women as a prerequisite to earn respect, and recognition in Igboland.â€™â€™ This gruesome, Uzoamaka (2018) is classified into four types which include Clitoridectomy, Excision, Infibulation, and other types in these manners. They are usually done using, in most cases, unsterilized sharp objects to partially or completely remove some parts of young womenâ€™s external vagina parts. Clitoris and the inner lip of the vulva parts of the sensitive private organs are usually cut off during the exercise. Other conditions attached to FGM are incision, deinfibulation, and reinfibulation. The United Nation Population Fund explains that the incision â€œrefers to making cuts in the clitoris or cutting free the clitoral prepuce, but it also relates to incisions made in the vaginal wall and to incision of the perineum and the symphysis.â€ The cutting does not stop at that; the deinfibulation is also done by cutting open a â€œwoman who has been infibulated to allow intercourse or to facilitate childbirth while reinbulation means â€œthe practice of sewing the external labia back together after deinfibulation. (â€œFemale Genital Mutilationâ€).
Early Girl Child Marriage
Making up the number for the various gender disparities in socio-cultural Igbo tradition is early child marriage while marriage is expected to be a union between two adults (a man and a woman) with full understanding and consent into the union, some part of the Igbo culture still practice and justify child marriage under the guise of traditional belief.
The premium paid to childbearing in the land has made reproduction the topmost prerequisite of measuring the success of a marital union. It is believed that giving out a girl child in marriage before or during the puberty stage will highly increase her chances of giving birth to healthy children. The belief, Chuckwu (2012) attributed to the prevalence of the practice in the region. This is another archaic perspective highlighting the plights of the female gender in the land as many of the girls who are victims of early marriage are usually compelled to live the rest of their lives with men that are not necessarily their choices. In addition to that, their life goals and future ambitions are usually cut-off and are subject to the whims and caprices of the husband and his family members. In most cases, the girls either lack the chance of getting any education or be forced to sacrifice their schooling for the marriage.
Health Disparitiesâ€™ of Igbo Cultural Practice
These cultural disparities affect several areas of affected demographics of the population in different ways. One of the most affected areas of women in the region is their healthcare. For instance, the widowhood discrimination which in some cases they take away the material belongings and dignity of the affected widows usually lead to hardship and torment. Widowhood in Igboland is viewed as a stigma and widows are sometimes avoided like a plague. Chukwu et al (2012) observed that a widowâ€™s actions are always subjected to scrutiny and suspicion as such that “the society interpreted every action of widows and reacted inappropriately to the extent that people pointed at them making unhealthy comments.” A situation like this causes loneliness and may lead to depression.
For the genital mutilation, while the old tradition views it as a way of preventing promiscuity and offering pride of womanhood to the girl child, the adverse physical and psychological health effects on the affected women are grievously enormous. The physical effects are both immediate and late effects. The immediate effects include â€œpain and hemorrhage, wound infection, difficulty and pain in passing urine and even deathâ€, while the late effects include â€œinfertility, chronic pelvic pain, painful menstruation, cyst formation and vesico-vaginal fistuleâ€ Uzoamaka, et al (year). Other effects of FGM are obstetric risk and complications which usually occur during labor. For the psychological part of the effects, the inhuman treatment of having to be under an unsterilized â€˜knife’ without any form of anesthesia, and with legs forcefully held down and bound for a long period while the â€˜surgeryâ€™ last, is nothing but mental torture.
The girl child marriage also has negative effects similar to that of FGM. Exposure to sex and childbearing at an immature age is very dangerous to the wellbeing of the victim. One of the health risks of early marriage is the vesico-vaginal fistula (VVF) usually suffered by the young women. The consequences of this, as observed by Chuckwu (2012) is that whenever the victims are diagnosed with the disease, they usually feel frustrated and worthless. The VVF which is a direct “direct pathological communication between the urinary bladder and the vagina” usually leads to the uncontrolled leakage of urine into the vagina from the bladder. The experience, apart from being painful, is commonly responsible for many complications including the inability to bear more children despite still being young. Chukwu et al describe the case as â€œchildren [begetting] children.â€ With VVF which, the essence of the culture is utterly defeated while the young victims remain on the receiving end.
The Igbo culture is a heritage of the land which observers have been regarded as being highly reach. It has many positive elements which are seen as a pride to the indigenes. However, some negative sides of the culture like violence and degradation against female gender need to be abolished. Womanhood should be held in esteem; therefore, any cultural practice that is short of that needs to be reviewed in a manner of urgency.
â€œ19 Social Categories.â€ Journal Transcultural Nursing (III SOCIAL CATEGORIES: Section E 1-19).
Chukwu, C. C. Scent, G. A., Emeka, J. O. Obi, C.O and Kalu, E. O. (2014). Violence against women in Igboland, South-east, Nigeria: A critical quest for change. International Journal of Sociology and Anthropology. Academic Journals, 6(2,), 49-58. http://www.eajournals.org/wp-content/uploads/The-Legal-Anatomy-of-Cultural-Widowhood-Practices-in-South-Eastern-Nigeria-The-Need-for-a-Panacea.pdf
â€œFemale genital mutilationâ€ (2018) FGM frequently asked questions. United Nations Population Funds (UNFPA). https://www.unfpa.org/resources/female-genital-mutilation-fgm-frequently-asked-questions#whatisfgm
â€œIgbo.â€ Countries and Their Cultures Forum https://www.everyculture.com/wc/Mauritania-to-Nigeria/Igbo.html
Nwogwu, M.I. (2015). The Legal Anatomy Of Cultural Widowhood Practices In South Eastern Nigeria: The Need For A Panacea. Global Journal of Politics and Law Research, 3, (1), 79-90.http://www.eajournals.org/wp-content/uploads/The-Legal-Anatomy-of-Cultural-Widowhood-Practices-in-South-Eastern-Nigeria-The-Need-for-a-Panacea.pdf
Uzoamaka, E. Achunam, N. Obiageli, F.E., Amobi, L.I. (2018). The Epidemiology of Female Genital Mutilation in Nigeria-A Twelve Year Review. Researchgate. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/324825410_The_Epidemiology_of_Female_Genital_Mutilation_in_Nigeria-A_Twelve_Year_Review
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