Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Spirit Spouses: A phenomenon of sexual fantasy or a reality?

The spirit-spouse belief system, a popular belief system in Nigeria came under scrutiny when Eno Blankson Ipke, a lecturer in the department of History and Strategic studies University of Lagos presented the findings of her study during the session ‘Sexual health in Africa’ yesterday.

Non-Nigerian delegates were wowed at hearing the situation as explained by Eno Blankson Ipke, where an individual is alleged to have constant sexual relations with a spirit spouse (not human).

Eno Blankson Ikpe said her interest to study the spirit-spouse belief system started when during one of the programmes of her church, the preacher had asked that people afflicted by spirit spouses should stand up for special prayers. “To my surprise, I was the only one left on the pew who did not stand up for this special prayer. My curiosity was aroused and I decided to take an academic study into this spirit spouse issue and my study has been most interesting.”

Mrs Ipke explained that the study which is on-going had a quantitative approach and interviewed individuals who have had spirit spouses and have been ‘delivered from their affliction, individuals who are still afflicted by these spirit spouses and persons who are relations and friends or know persons who have had or are still having spirit spouses.

As fairy tale as this may sound, the study findings are very revealing. Mrs Ipke said that her findings reveal “more ladies are afflicted by these spirit spouses than men and the spirit spouses seem to have a preference for fair ladies. The spirit husbands have constant sexual relations with the ladies in their dreams and these ladies claim that they wake up with physical evidence of sex like ‘sperm’ on their vaginal areas.”

Mrs. Ikpe explained that the phenomenon have sexuality implications on their human partners. When not yet married, the spirit spouses’ hinder their victims from getting married or remaining in a marriage union with another human partner. Also the spirit spouses take control of the human partner – who are powerless to resist the control and cannot resist the control - and make them do things like having multiple sexual partners and these human partners are powerless and cannot resist the control of their spirit spouses.

In a chat with this delegate and some others from Kenya, Mrs. Ikpe expressed the view that this spirit spouse belief system may be an African way of explaining off things we do not fully understand. She suspects that may be, these human partners who are mostly women may have been abused sexually at some point in their life – possibly at home (incest) and due to Africa’s culture of silence on issues of sexuality, these human partners at the time of being sexually abused had no one to talk to, or the abuse was shrouded in silence as is usually the case and at some point, begin to have imaginations. And since somebody has to be blamed for something and such bad things come from the spirit, it is best to blame it on a spirit which we cannot see than on incest. She noted that sexually abused persons have a tendency to some behaviour like multiple partners if not properly counselled and treated at the time of the sexual abuse. And this may well explain why human partners of spirit spouses may have multiple sex partners.

She is concerned that if this spirit spouse phenomenon is not fully researched into and facts established, the issues of accountability may not be achieved. This she noted is because the human partners will continue to blame their spirit spouses for their sexual actions instead of taking responsibility for their own actions. The study revealed that human partners get involved with spirit partners some times at birth when their parents dedicate them to spirits for protection or in appreciation for answering their request for the gift of a child. Some get involved with spirit spouses by having sexual relations with a human partner of a spirit spouse e.t.c.

Participants at the session commended the research effort but called for further research into the spirit-spouse belief system to establish facts instead of just pushing it aside as an expression of sexual fantasy of those affected.

By Ogechi Eronini

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