Widows’ Rights: Activists Protest Inhumane Treatment, Demand Legal Protection

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A wild drama ensued at the Lagos office of the Human Rights Commission as protesters led by Dr. Obiora Okolo, founder of Save Women Foundation, gathered on Wednesday morning. The initiator and facilitator of the movement led a large number of women, all dressed in black, to protest the incessant harassment, intimidation, and dehumanization of women, especially widows, in society.

According to Dr. Okolo, there is an urgent need to enact a law to secure widows against their late husbands’ relatives’ inhumane acts. This call was necessitated by the recent experience of Ms. Billy Oladuni Temitayo, a staunch member of the group and a newly wedded former widow whose new husband was attacked and almost killed last week in Ikorodu.

After losing her former husband in a ghastly accident, Ms. Temitayo was forced to sleep with the corpse of her late husband for three days and drink part of the bath water used in washing his corpse to clear herself of any complicity in his sudden death. Furthermore, she was mandated to be betrothed to her late husband’s younger brother in line with the outdated tradition called “supo.”

Dr. Okolo exclaimed, “Can you imagine such an archaic condition in this twenty-first century, for such a young lady with blissful years ahead of her?” After refusing to marry the younger brother against her wish, she was thrown out of the house jointly built by her and her late husband, and her new husband was almost killed last week by men suspected to be hired by her late husband’s relations.

Dr. Okolo pleaded, “We are appealing to the National Human Rights Commission to help curb the maltreatment of vulnerable widows in our society.” She promised to take her petition further to the National Assembly in Abuja to expedite their demands. “Supo” is a hereditary marital process where a woman is automatically married to the brother or a close family member of her late husband, prevalent in the South West and North West regions of the country.

The Director for Human Rights Commission, Lagos office, was not available for comment when contacted