Christian Rights Activist Moves For Abolition of Female Genital Mutilation in Ehanlen Ewu Community.
….Says “ancient barbaric custom is unhealthy, pushing many young girls away from their land of birth, prompting them into dangerous illegal migration far from home”
By Edowaye Okhiulu
Ewu 16 February, 2016.
Ehanlen Ewu is a community in Esan Central Local Government Area of Edo State Nigeria. Ehanlen is renowned as the first and earliest community of the Eilu Dynasty which is evidently the aborigines of the entire Esan Race. It was from this ancient community that over thirty sub-clans dispersed to various locations to form the now thirty gazetted Kingdoms making up Esan land politically known as the Edo Central Senatorial District.
Evidence of early human habitations dating back to 500 BC are found in the Oniha quarters of Ehanlen with archaeological resemblance to the prehistoric Nok Culture. This shrine is called Odorgua – a shrine where all the head of the sub-clans meet to observe ancient traditions.
Ehanlen therefore boasts of some of the highest first class palace chiefs in the entire Esan Race and divine for its deep rootedness in ancient traditional priesthood cult of adherents to ancient customs and conventions still unchanged and observed till date. These ancient practices supersede the imported doctrines of Christian religion.
Ehanlen is also the strictest and most conservative in adherence to the pure undiluted traditional native laws and customs in which female circumcisions (female Genital Mutilation) is prominent.
Many Chiefs in Ehanlen are also the custodians of the traditional religion and are the custodians of the spiritual rituals of the clan”s totems of beliefs and community heritage. Most popular among them are:
Odigie, Omosun, Omo-obor, Iyasele to mention just a few.
The strictness to these ancient adherents of the traditional laws and customs have led to many people fleeing from Ehanlen community and seeking refuge elsewhere. The most affected by these practices are young girls who must undergo female genital mutilation at age 14 to 20 at most. Female at certain age are also made to observe the ighele festival which involve young girls of certain age dancing round the village completely naked.
Ehanlen being the aborigines of the entire Esan Race are credited to hold on firmly to their ancient customs, norms, rituals, ancestral worship and conventions including female circumcision which modern medical science has found to be unhealthy and inhuman.
Despite being the site of the earliest Christian Missionary activities in the entire region, (Catholic Missionaries led by Reverend Father Corobeu sited the first Christian church in Ehanlen in 1903 now the Holy Trinity Catholic Parish). Despite the strong Christian presence in this community and undermining the existence of the Saint Benedict Monastery, Ehanlen still hold on to its strict adherence to ancient traditional rituals.
In Ehanlen, even if you are a Christian, you must also observe this ancient customs and traditions passed down from time immemorial.
One of these customs as earlier mentioned is female genital mutilation (orue) and Ighele (public naked dance). Female genital mutilation is the practice of surgically removing some sexually arousing components of the female virginal as a right of passage to adulthood and motherhood. This traditional surgery is carried out by the priestess using ancient surgical tools with support of her acolytes every three years because community dwellers are grouped into age grades of those born within a period of three years.
Ones this is done, the girls are forcefully married out to their husbands to start giving birth to children.
Some adult women who have gone through the ritual in their teenage age confirmed that even though the ritual is a painful ordeal, the rationale behind the ancient custom is to carry out a kind of virginity test and also to remove the part of the clitoris which arouse excessive pleasure and sexual feelings in the girl child to prevent the girls from living promiscuous lifestyle and remain faithful to their husbands for life.
Christian Rights Activist operating in the region who are openly against the barbaric practices despite intimidation from die-hard traditional priest and adherents of the ancient customs and conventions has continuously lend their voice in the fight against this ancient customs that is still silently observed in the ancient aboriginal community.
According to Dr Silas Okoeguale, convener of the group: Chrsitians Against Unhealthy and Barbaric Customary Practices (CAUBC), he told journalist without borders that his group is most worried and genuinely concerned about the continuous prevalence of the barbaric female genital mutilation practices in Ehanlen. He observed that the ancient community despite being the pioneers of Christianity in the region still observe their tradition even against all resistance by us the rights groups.
He added that his group sometimes in January 2016 got hints that the ritual was scheduled to be observed sometimes last month and we moved into action to stop it. It’s however disappointing to state that the priests were a step ahead of us in their intelligence gathering and they succeeded in carrying out the practice a day before the date we learnt it would take place. We had planned to stop the nonsense with local vigilante efforts. Our joy is that many of the girls escaped and ran away from home.
“We could not stop them this time but we will definitely stop them in the nearest future. We are not giving up on the campaign to free our girls from this barbaric custom”, he added.
It is sad to note that the law enforcement agents who should have come to the aid of the young girls usually turn blind eyes to these barbaric acts majorly because of the fear of the unknown. Many fear the diabolical potency of the traditional priest who many believe can harm you spiritually with juju or black magic if you try to obstruct their ancient practices.
Many young girls from strong christian background who refused to subject themselves to these unhealthy practices are isolated, banished, harmed or killed outrightly by the adherents of the ancient priesthood cult.
Many young girls take their destiny in their hands by resorting to self-help of fleeing from the village to farther land even across national borders and thus exposed to illegal human trafficking and unlawful migration with all the risk involved. Many have lost their lives in this ordeal because no one to come to their aid at home. Their fathers and mothers including other members of their families see the practices as normal. Their mothers believe that since they themselves went through the process in their teenage days, why not their own daughters who will carry on the tradition after them. Those who suppose to stand up for them claim there is nothing wrong for their girls to go through same since the practice was passed from generations to generations.
Dr Silas believe that the effort to free young girls from this barbaric act is a campaign that requires global attention to make headway.