Becheve: Where Girls Are Sold Into Marriage For Debts Settlement
Becheve, a community in Obanliku Local Government Area of Cross River is an eight hours drive from Calabar the State Capital but it is stuck with an age-long bizarre culture.
Covered with thick vegetation, Obanliku sits on a mountainous terrain thousands of meters above sea level. Behind the cloudy terrain are the heart-wrenching stories of young Becheve girls sold into marriage in exchange for goats, food items, and in settlement of their parents’ debt.
Becheve is a large community in Obanliku with 17 tribes. Despite sharing location with popular Obudu Cattle Ranch and Resort which attracts tourists from across the world, men in this community have refused to give up the ancient custom.
The ancient custom is called ‘Money Marriage,’ and the victims are called ‘Money Woman’ of ‘Money Wife.’
Becheve girls are sold into ‘Money Marriage’ for cash as low as N10, 000. Food items like tubers of yams; livestock like goats and pigs – all depending on the bargaining power of the ‘groom.’
Faith Ikpe was eager to narrate her story. The story of how her parents sweet-talked her into money marriage. She was a primary four pupil when her parents sold her into marriage to a man old enough to be her father.
Her marriage to the man, however, did not kill her dream of going to school. The desire to go to school was so strong that she sold bananas to buy books. But her ‘husband’ saw education as a great threat that he had to squelch any sign of it by constantly flogging her.
“I wrongly thought money woman was a good practice. I was sold when I was in primary four. My mother and my dad deceived me that if I follow the man he will send me to school.
“First term and second term went and they didn’t allow me to start school. I then sold bananas to raise money to buy a few books so I can go to school.
“However my husband didn’t allow me. Every time I tried to go to school he will beat me. I will pass through the window and run to school. Every time I return from school, he will beat me.”
Sounding helpless she begged for government’s intervention. Ikpe also prayed for an end to the demeaning practice and expressed believe that the government can help end it.
“I want to beg the government to put an end to this money woman practice. Those of us who have experienced it, we have discovered that it is all about suffering. I don’t want other young children to experience this.
“Government should please help put a stop to this practice.
“It is very bad for a young girl to be sold into marriage to an old man and the girl used as a slave on cocoa farm.”
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