IndexAfricaNigeria → Ibibio


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See further Anang Ibibio


Pre-initiation (female circumcision, age 17, or after puberty) sex is common, but supposed to be reserved for the premarital pair (Jeffreys, 1956)[1]. Infant marriage was not uncommon, the bride taken to her husband’s home; at least betrothal took place when girls were 2 to six years of age (Talbot, 1969 [III]:p451). Intercourse before maturity is forbidden: if its occurrence was proved, the family could claim her back without returning the dowry (Talbot, 1915:p88)[2].


“The first great event in the life of an Ibibio girl is her entrance into the “Fatting-house”, on the occasion of Mbobi--i.e. “The Coming of Small Breasts” (p76). “Among the Efiks, and those Ibibios rich enough to bear the expense, free-born girls of good family go twice, and sometimes even thrice, into the Fatting-house before the full marriage ceremony is performed. As already mentioned, the first occasion is called Mbobi, “The Coming of Small Breasts”. This usually lasts for three months, during which time the girl undergoes circumcision” (p82-3). “According to Ibibio ideas the actual marriage tie is entered upon after the payment by the groom to the bride’s parents of the major portion of the so-called “dowry money”. The first instalment of this constitutes betrothal, and is often paid when the little maid is still very young. Infant betrothal and marriage are not uncommon. In the latter case the baby bride usually lives with her husband's family; but, save in very rare instances, her youth is respected by him. Should the contrary be proved against a man his conduct is regarded as reprehensible, and the girl's family can claim her back without returning the dowry. In many cases child betrothal and marriage inflict undoubted hardships upon the unfortunate bride, who thus has no word to say as to her own fate. At the present day many such youthful spouses, on reaching years of discretion, claim the protection of Government to free them from an arrangement in which they had no choice” (p88).


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Janssen, D. F., Growing Up Sexually. Volume I. World Reference Atlas. 0.2 ed. 2004. Berlin: Magnus Hirschfeld Archive for Sexology

Last revised: Sept 2004


[1] Jeffreys, M. D. W. (1956) The Nyama society of the Ibibio women, Afr Stud 15,1:15-28

[2] Talbot, D. Au. (1915) Women’s Mysteries of a Primitive People. London: Cassell [http://www.sacred-texts.com/afr/wmp/index.htm]; Benedict ([1948:p396]), op.cit.