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The Chief Executive Officer of Twin Initiative, Buchi Oyeniyi, has called for an end to the barbaric practice of money marriage among the Becheve people of Obanliku Local Government Area of Cross River.
Oyeniyi made the call at a strategic meeting of stakeholders held in Calabar on Tuesday.
According to her, money marriage is a situation where young girls and unborn children are sold off to prospective husbands before they are 18 without the consent of their mothers by male relatives.
She said this type of marriage was slightly different from child marriage because the girls were mere commodities and meant to fend for themselves, children and husbands.
They are also allowed to live promiscuous lives as any money got from such illicit affairs belongs to their husbands, she said.
Oyeniyi said these marriages were conducted in the shrines where the girl’s spirit was invoked, tied to a wooden item called olambe and given to the husband.
“Whenever the girl absconds, the husband simply kills her by destroying the olambe or he drops it in a swamp and as the olambe soaks water the girl gets swollen wherever she is, Oyeniyi said.
She described this type of marriage as modern day slavery, pointing out the infants were sold off for life, as even when their husbands died, they were transferred to their brothers.
The Commissioner for Women Affairs in Cross River, Stella Odey, said the meeting was necessary to deliberate on how to end money marriage in Becheve.
“A situation whereby a child is betrothed because of a debt of N10,000 is abominable and must not be condoned in our society,’’ Odey said.
She urged discussants to be open minded and contribute meaningfully to ways of properly solving the problem as human right issues were serious.
Similarly, the Commissioner for Information Cross River, Rosemary Archibong, said to solve the problem, there should be constant engagement with the leaders of the Becheve community.
“We need to engage the people even the women because some women in Becheve community even prefer to be money wives as there are some benefits,’’ she said.
Archibong said the problem could not be solved with the use of force but constant engagement as there were no police stations or hospitals in the area.
In his response, the member representing Obanliku, Moses Ucheche, said he was ignorant of the practice but asked for the cooperation of all stakeholders in ending it.
He said, “ since we have gotten this far, we must not give up in trying to fight this devastating malaise called money marriage in Becheve community.’’
A representative of UN Population Fund (UNFPA), Kenneth Ehouzou, said the culture was terrible and wrong but could be changed since it was made by the community.
He said that the elite from Becheve community should educate the people of their community on the dangers of money marriage.
Ehouzou said for effective remedy of the situation, the girl-child should be in school, while psycho-social support should be provided girls and victims of money marriage.
He said the people of Becheve should not be ostracised and the women should be empowered.
The meeting resolved to take concrete steps to end money marriage in the community, including constant sensitisation of members of Becheve community.