Youths Assault, Strip Widow Naked For Allegedly Picking ‘Sacred Snails’

A widow, Anthonia Okonkwo, who was allegedly stripped naked by some youths in an Enugu State community has said she did not harvest snails from the sacred forest as alleged by the perpetrators.

Mrs Okonkwo made the disclosure on Friday when an NGO, the Women Aid Collective (WACOL) led by the Founder, Prof Joy Ezeilo, visited her in a hospital at Afam-Mmaku in Awgu Local Government Area of the state.

Narrating her ordeal, the 44-year-old widow said she harvested and sold snails in the community for a longtime to cater for her four children since her husband died 13 years ago.

She said that on the fateful day, she was in her house when she heard noises outside and in a jiffy, youths invaded her home, dragged her out, without any opportunity to defend herself.

According to her, “the youths started beating me with weapons and clubs, stripped me naked and tied fresh palm fronds around my waist and neck which symbolised an act of taboo in the community.

“I didn’t even know what my offence was until I saw my snail customer in their midst, who said that the youth accosted her on a bike, searched her bag and saw the fresh snails.

“They quizzed her and she led them to my house and that is what I am suffering.

“I did not go to the sacred forest. I pick my snails from the bush and not from the shrine,” she said.

The victim said that she was pained that her relation who came to rescue her was also beaten to stupor for her sake.

Okonkwo listed the names of the perpetrators to include Sunday, Jonathan, Obi, Chigazu and Okechukwu.

Others were Chukwudike Anikene, Chukwuebuka Agu, one Maduabuchi and his father as well as a girl who videotaped her during the attack.

Reacting to the incident, Prof Ezeilo (SAN), said the act of the youths was beyond harmful cultural practice.

“It is physical violence and the worst form of degrading treatment to strip her naked by children, some much younger than her son.

“As we speak, the entire family is traumatised, she is traumatised, her son that saw her in that dehumanising state is also traumatised, locked himself in a room for days.

“He has refused to talk to anybody or attend school because of the shame and fear of stigmatisation.

“They all need immediate help to regain their self-esteem. The woman is still in distress, she needs comprehensive medical help,” she lamented.

The senior advocate said that WACOL had undertaken to move her from her current hospital, which did not have adequate equipment to provide the requisite medicare and support she needed.

The Professor of Law encouraged the victim/survivor and assured her that she and WACOL would do everything possible for her to obtain justice.

She called on the government of Enugu State to immediately intervene to ensure a complete eradication of these harmful practices which continued to enable violence against women in communities, especially in light of existing Enugu State Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Law.

The Police have, so far, arrested seven suspects over the incident while others are still at large.

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