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Covering A Woman’s ‘Shame’ – (Dignity And Virginity)

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Monday, December 21st, 2020
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This is such a funny story to be telling now.

Growing up in a small community, word went round fast and a lot. If somebody was to get married, we would probably know about it faster than the family of the in-laws. When I was to move to boarding school, neighbours were already congratulating me before my final letter of admission came through.

There was a saying then that to get word faster around, all you had to know was tell a family in my community. I didn’t mind their nosey attitude, I never complained when they brought gists to my house or when their loud voices while discussing another family’s travails woke me up from sleep over and over again. I never complained when they mocked families who could not afford to send their children to good schools not until I came back from boarding school. After spending about 1 year away from home, I had come home to find out that many of the girls I grew up with were either married and pregnant or about to be married.

To say I was confused would be an understatement but I knew that whether I had been away for 50 years or not, the gists and stories would still get to me so I waited patiently for an explanation. The night after I returned home, my mother called me into the sitting room to inform me that after my final year in Secondary school, I would start getting ready to be married. Why and how she thought saying that so casually was appropriate was beyond me.  I just stared at her confused and in utter shock but out of lack of words nodded my head and went to bed. The next day, as expected, the news carriers came to my house for their early morning dose of gossip. They talked about how Tayo, my childhood friend was getting ready to have her first child. Then I heard one of them say they were glad that she was married off with her dignity intact. Then my mother told them that with the rise in girls losing their virginity before marriage, she was not going to let me stay unmarried longer than my final year in secondary school.

I thought “oh, is that what they meant by dignity?”

All that was going through my mind was that my mum was going through a phase, and I was convinced that she would leave that idea soon enough until 3 days later when I had stayed out late and was on my way back home when I was raped.

Now that I think about it, there is nothing funny about this story!

After they found me battered in the morning of the next day and had taken me to the hospital, the real nightmare started. While some people said I needed to see a psychologist, some said what I needed was to marry a man so I could cover my shame, since my dignity had been taken away. My mother struggled for days, caught in between taking care of me and wanting to cover the “shame”. Each day the jobless women would come around and talk about a new girl in the community who had just married as a virgin.

Why they thought a woman’s dignity was tied to her virginity, I could not seem to understand. They were so obsessed with making sure my “shame” was covered since I had lost my dignity that they did not see me sinking into oblivion.

So, after they had arranged for me to be married to the one who would cover my “shame”, I knew I had to run!

And, I ran!

I Ran and learnt to heal. I learnt to remind myself that my dignity was never tied to my thighs and carry this with me till today!

Images : Google Images

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