Alarm: There is an auction market for women all over Nigeria

There is a thriving auction market in Nigeria and what is up for grabs is women.

The commodification of women is a mainstay of patriarchal societies across the world – from Pakistan and its trail of child brides auctioned off sometimes before they take their first wobbly steps to the baby factories ‘discovered’ every now and then across Nigeria.

This is often less sinisterly done than it reads, however. People – fathers in most cases and in some cases brothers and male cousins, don’t roam night markets secretly sliding the pictures of their female relatives across tables in dark bars, these transactions happen in broad daylight.

Take this tweet advertising a man’s request seeking husbands for his 4daughters for instance.

The tweet is shared by Halal Matchmaking, a matchmaking page on Twitter dedicated to connecting Muslims for marriage in a religiously appropriate way while also helping people living with disabilities.

This trend of fathers and/or male relatives coming pleadingly to the public begging for men to take up their daughters’ hands in marriage is a commonplace practice in Northern Nigeria where I hail from.

Announcements are usually made late at night after the final compulsory prayer of the day – Ishaaa, or in the wee hours of the morning after the first prayer of the day – Subh. It is a ritual of men that sprinkles the final icing on the cake in the social design that tells women ‘you are nothing without this transfer of guardianship from father to husband.’

It often takes no cognisance of what the woman might desire then or ever.

There are a few occasions when the rare woman perhaps buckling under the pressure of social expectations, walks up to an Imaam and makes a request that her name and desperate desire to be wedded, be brought up for the men who frequent a particular mosque.  Yet, even that is not without the hanging question of how much of a choice one has; when the only choice society says is acceptable is one in which they are wedded to a man no matter how unideal he is to be anyone’s life partner.

Women are being sold daily into socially sanctioned servitude and in so doing we are collectively setting the precedence to remind girls they are worth no more than their marital status or affiliation to a man – be that a father, brother or husband.

It is a terrible precedence to set for over half of Nigeria’s population if we ever are to stand a chance of prospering as a nation.

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