IndexAfricaNigeria→ Ijaw


Featured: Badjju, Nupe, Hausa, Kadara, Kagoro, Efik, Tiv, Kanuri, Ijaw/ Ijo, Bini, Marghi, Jekri, Lala, Kofjar, Ibibio, Woodabe Fulani, Borroro Fulani, Ibo[ Afikpo Igbo, Asaba Ibo], Rukuba, Irigwe, Yakoe, Igbira, Igala, Orri, Dakarkaki


Betrothal takes place at age 3-4 (Talbot (1969 [III]:p438). Three days after “Genital Painting Day” (Kunju Mie Ene), the girls are free to take a lover, but to have intercourse before the Iria ceremony is considered a disgrace never quite wiped out (Talbot (1969 [II]:p402). Before menarche, girls are not allowed to wear anything until a short loin-cloth.


Elam (1998)[1] remarks on Iria:


“For the Okrika tribe, who lives on the island of Ogoloma in the river district of southern Nigeria, the Iria is the traditional coming- of-age ceremony for pubescent girls. This ceremony contains all four of the factors found in ritual coming-of-age ceremonies; isolation, instruction, transition, and celebration. However, two interesting factors distinguish this ceremony from many others: it is performed when a girl has reached a relatively mature age (about seventeen), not at the onset of menarche [sic], and it is a group initiation. Years ago, girls were expected to marry immediately after completing Iria, but today finishing an education and starting a career is considered acceptable. Basically, Iria is a way of proclaiming a girl’s womanhood, beauty, and marriageability”.


During the ceremony, wise women inspect their breasts mammae, in order to detect pregnancy, and therefore unchastity (Gardner, 1993)[2]. To fail this chastity test would bring great dishonour and shame on their families and the offending girl would be seen as both loose and a prostitute.













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

Last revised: Sept 2004


[1]Elam, J. (1998) A Cross-Cultural Comparison of Puberty Rites and Ceremonies for Females, Oxford Rev

[2] Gardner, L. (Producer) & Onwurah, N. (Director) (1993) Monday's Girls. [Film], as cited by Elam