Osu Caste System: The Discrimination of Marrying an Osu person

I chose to look on this topic when I heard a lady share her story about how she was seen as “curse” because of her tribe. She explained that she got pregnant for a man and the man denied the kids that she is an “OSU” When I try to know what it is all about. I was shocked that it is an old tradition still carried by the Igbos. We are in the 21st century and it seems like the younger generation can’t let go of the mistake of their forefathers. The young generation of Igbos (Eastern part of Nigeria) forbids marrying an “Osu” lady I found this article on Naij that went into details on this topic: Image result for osu in igbo tradition

The historical background of Osu and the status quo: According to a journal, ‘The Osu Caste Discrimination in Igboland: Impact on Igbo Culture and Civilization in Nigeria’, the system in Nigeria and southern Cameroon can be traced back to an indigenous religious belief system practised within the Igbo nation. It is the belief of many Igbo traditionalists that the Osu are people historically owned by deities and are therefore considered to be a ‘living sacrifice’, an outcast, untouchable and sub-human (similar to the Roman practice of homo sacer).

In this 21st century, this form of discrimination is still very much alive among Igbo speaking people in states such as Enugu, Anambra, Imo, Abia, Ebonyi, Edo and Delta in Nigeria. It is believed that modern-day Osu in Igboland is descendants of individuals who volunteered and were sacrificed to the various gods.

These forefathers pledged themselves and their descendants to these gods. They enjoyed protection and privileges but were segregated from ordinary folks. These Osu people married, fraternized and socialized among themselves. It is a practice that has a far-reaching impact on the marriage institution than any other consideration as it is still a taboo just like in the days of old, for an ordinary Igbo person to marry an Osu person.

The veracity of the issue is that these people did not choose to be born as Osu. Should another Mary Slessor come to the rescue? Segregation or discrimination is not part of God’s agenda when he created man. The traditions of men have allowed it to thrive from generation to generation.

If certain traditions have been abolished in the country, why is the Igbo community still holding tenaciously to the dehumanizing Osu caste system that seeks to hold down some people in the society perpetually? The admonition for the Igbos Victims of the Osu caste system could lose their sense of worth due to the segregation and discrimination against them. For the women who could not marry on the basis of this discrimination, they could resort to prostitution with the attendant negative consequences on the society.

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Segregation or discrimination of this kind breeds social disharmony and undermines cohesiveness in Igbo land (Eastern part of Nigeria). It is about time the governors of the states in Igbo land, monarchs, opinion leaders, civil society groups, youths and all stakeholders rose in one accord to put an end to this scourge of mankind.

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