Through a tradition called “money marriage,” some young girls are used as currency in a type of modern slavery among the Becheve people in Cross River. Children are sold to men as old as 90 to settle debts or as a form of payment.
Although, the head of the community says that the practice has been eradicated since the early 90s and the Nigerian law forbade the practice in 2009, the money marriage still thrives.
“They got people to hold me so that the man could sleep with me. Three men and one woman, they held me down as the man slept with me. After that, I fell pregnant but I was too young to be pregnant, I wasn’t even up to 12 years old,” Dorothy, a money woman shares her experience with BBC Africa.
In Becheve culture, there is love marriage and money marriage. In love marriage, the children belong to the family of the woman; in money marriage, the child belongs to the child who bought the girl. The man can sell his own child; he doesn’t divide the proceeds with anybody.
“They will bring their children to you. Some as young as six years old, others at 10-years old when they bring them to you. Those ones are ready to marry, they are grown up. They know how to cook, they know how to do everything,” the oldest man with a money wife in the community said.
A money woman is not treated as the other children. She is not allowed to go to school, not fed when other are being fed, because she is the man’s absolute property. Some are sold into child labour, some are pimped to other men and when they get pregnant, the man is happy because that translates to more money.
“The man was old. He has children and his children have children. Even his grandchildren have children. He used to fight with me and beat me. He said that even if he killed me, no one would say anything because I’m his money woman,” 14-year old Happiness shares her experience.
The money woman is reportedly a ‘status thing’. Wealth cannot be ascribed to a man that doesn’t have a money wife. Infact, the more money wife a man has, the bigger the man.
Watch the video here.