Conjugal Morality and Sexual Vulnerability: the Ellembelle Case
AbstractThe Ellembelle believe that the institution of marriage is sacred and must also endure. In this respect, the proprietary rights of husband and wife must be protected hence the fashioning out of a conjugal code. The code delineates acceptable sexual behaviour, parenting and domestic responsibilities among others. The conjugal code eschews lasciviousness in both males and females, even though men in some respects get off lightly when they have multiple sexual partners. It is known that certain risk factors and traditional practices may facilitate the spread of STD's including HIV. Some of these factors are: Permissibility of sex among people who intend to marry, the polygynous nature of Ellembelle society, widowhood rites that warrant the widow to sleep with a virtual stranger after her statutory period of mourning, migrant women who sojourn in Franzie (La Cote d'Ivoire) coming back home to their lovers etc and above all the poor condom culture in Ellembelle. Available evidence shows that AIDS in Ellembelle is real and until recently, female sojourners in Abidjan who return home terminally ill and die were believed to be accursed. In the light of knowledge on HIV/AIDS, the “accursed reason” needs to be properly analysed to establish the link between the risky behaviours of these migrant women and HIV/AIDS. This paper discusses conjugal morality as perceived by the Ellembelle Nzema of Western Ghana. It also examines human actions that constitute a breach of the conjugal code. The section on sexual vulnerability and the transmission of death is an attempt to portray how traditional and current sexual practices predispose people to Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) including HIV/AIDS. The final section deals with an analysis of HIV reported data from Eikwe Hospital in the Nzema East District of the Western region.
(Inst. of African Studies Research Review: 2002 18 (1): 27-32)