I’m reading rumblings around the interwebz today about the 200 Nigerian schoolgirls who were kidnapped by Boko Haram earlier in the year. Apparently the Nigerian government has come to an agreement with Boko Haram to secure their release.
Obviously this is great news if it’s true. But it’s also got me wondering…
Maybe it’s just the cynic in me, but I’ve spent some time working in Africa in the last couple of years (including one trip to Nigeria, so I’m not talking out my ass here) and I have travelled around a bit on holidays. As such, I wonder exactly what kind of reception these girls will actually get if/when they’re returned home to their families and villages?
The chances of these young girls being returned without being sexually abused during their time as hostages is pretty much slim to none. My experience in Africa tells me that these girls will be shunned by their local communities when they come home for being impure and because it will be difficult for their families to marry them off if they’re not virgins. There is a lot of stigma attached to young girls who lose their virginity before marriage.
It’s repugnant that this is actually an issue, but it’s part of the culture there. I might scream about how archaic it is, but there’s nothing that I can do about it. Even I was heavily criticized by local colleagues on one early work trip to Africa for living in sin with my partner because we’re not married – and then subsequently shunned for the remainder of the trip. My male colleague who I was travelling with on the other hand was congratulated for having sex before marriage when he said he lived with his girlfriend (they’re now married). My reaction was “are you f***ing kidding me?“. But then I’m an adult who doesn’t really give a crap what people think of me, and I was able to fly home after a week. I now know to simply not discuss the details of my personal life with people who are liable to have such reactions. These young girls don’t have that option.
It’ll be interesting to see what happens. While I obviously wish for their safe return, I do genuinely wonder just what attitude they’re going to be returning home to. I wonder just how welcome they’ll actually be.