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Nigeria is a country in West Africa with three distinct tribes- Yoruba, Ibo and Hausa. The Yoruba people occupy majorly the South Western parts of the country but can also be found, although in small population in other parts of the country. These three tribes have different views on sexuality and virginity, although there is a possibility of two cultures with similar views. The tradition of Virginity among young Yoruba women before marriage is known as “Asa Ibale” in the Yoruba Kingdom. This tradition is no longer practiced today because it has been eroded by colonialisation. A virgin is someone who has never had sexual intercourse or sexual activity.
Virginity In Yoruba Culture
During the traditional era and before the advent of colonialism, virginity was held at high esteem among the Yoruba people. A lady is expected to get married as a virgin as having sexual intercourse before the wedding ceremony is a taboo. This is the reason why the intending couple are not allowed to have close contact or be in the same room with each other before the D-day: thus, the need for an intermediary (Alarina).
Virginity to them is known as ‘Ibale’ and it is the pride of any Yoruba lady to keep hers till her wedding night.The wedding night is usually seen as a frightened day for the bride and her parents. In those days, mothers were fond of asking their daughters about their virginity so as to prevent the shame and disgrace that come with not been a virgin.
On the wedding night, a white cloth is usually given to the couple and the cloth will be spread on their bedding, mostly mats. The parents of both families sometimes stay at the entrance of the house waiting for the cloth to be brought out of the house while some parents will be in their homes expecting result. In this culture, the white cloth is expected to be stained by blood and after the sexual intercourse, if the cloth is stained, it means that the new bride is a virgin. If it turns out that the white cloth is not stained with blood, it signifies that the new bride had been promiscuous and slept with a man before.
A bride that is met as a virgin by her husband will be celebrated while the one that is not will be disgraced and banished from the village. The white cloth (stained or not) will be sent to the bride’s parents. Other items like rotten yam, half-filled matches or empty box of matches, half keg of palm wine will also be sent to them meaning that their daughter was rotten and not complete before she was married. The parents will be publicly blamed for not training their daughter. Grief, sorrow and loud cries will follow suit. Such bride that will sweep the whole village, dance naked in the market’s place before she finally leaves her village. The groom also has the right to divorce such a woman.
On the other hand, if the newly-wed was met as a virgin, the groom’s family will send a full keg of palm wine, full matches box to the bride’s parents indicating that their daughter was complete before the wedding night. She will be praised publicly and her parents will be happy. It is believed that virgins have self-discipline and are well-trained by their parents.
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This custom and virginity has many advantages as it prevent the rate of fornication and helps the married women to be faithful with their husbands. Also, many lives have been lost to the act. Some young ladies have committed suicide because of the shame. Highly respected or elders can also commit suicide if their daughter was found to have lost her virginity before her marriage. This tradition is no longer in practice and has eaten deep by colonilisation.