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Bizarre African Tradition Where Girls Are Exploited

Every 11 of October, the world celebrates the girl-child.

In recognition of the International Day of the Girl-Child, here are some of the African communities where teenage girls are still subject to bizarre practices that appear “normal” to these people.

Sex slave, Namibia

Photo Credit: Namibian Tourism Board.

When a visitor comes knocking in OvaHimba and Ovazimba tribes, a man shows his approval and pleasure of seeing his guest by giving him the Okujepisa Omukazendu treatment. This practice means that his wife is given to his guest to spend the night while the husband sleeps in another room. In a case where there is no available room, her husband will sleep outside. The woman has little or no opinion in the decision making. Submission to her husband’s demands come first. She has an option of refusing to sleep with him but has to sleep in the same room as the guest.

Money wives, Cross River

Money Wife in Cross River. Photo: Al Jazeera

Here, parents are appreciative of their daughters (money woman) because they are propelled by the belief that they will be used to settle off debts. With some of these girls as young as six, some are used to play bets, settle hospital bills while others are given off for as little as N3500. At 10, she is ripe for marriage. She is allowed to bring in the man (her customer) to her home and can have sex with him as long as it is not done on the matrimonial bed.

For some, they are borrowed to a lender until he gets his money. During that period, he can do to her as he pleases including getting her to give birth to his children. Once married, she is prevented from going to school and is given leftovers meals and is treated as a property. It is a social status determiner because only the rich can afford to have as many as they want. Despite the existence of the Nigerian and cross river law against the practice, it is still adhered to.

Slave-child, Ghana

Trokosi. Photo: The Welles Report

Girls as young as 12 are committed to chief priests and are made to fulfil his sexual desires, cook and work in the farms. These girls known as trocosi are sent to the priest as slaves for the gods to pacify the priest for something evil the family did against their relatives a long time ago. In an unusual move, her parents are made to send food to her for feeding.

This age-long tradition implies that girls are given every generation to the chief priest to continue with the family’s atonement. When she is no longer attractive enough for the chief priest, he sends her away to welcome another girl.

Breast Ironing, Cameroon

A teenage girl whose breasts are pressed with umbilical belt. Photo credit: Mirror

Breast ironing, otherwise known as breast flattening, is a cultural practice that cuts across all ethnic groups in Cameroon. Men in this area of the country strongly believe that teenage girls as low as 9 years whose breasts are developing are ripe for sex. In reaction, a mother who cares about her daughter and monitors her daughter’s breast growth pounds the breast with hot objects such as a stone, hammer, an umbilical belt or a pestle so that it stops developing.

This way, men will find her unattractive and she can pursue her education. True to their plans, pregnancy rate has reduced since 1996. Made popular in the last 50 years, this practice was initially introduced because it was assumed to help with a woman’s breast milk and reduce breast cancer.

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