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  • Document 8:Memorandum on Concubinage and Dowry1
  • P. G. Butcher2, For Secretary

No. 14841/24/2
Keduna, 17 October, ’31


Advisory Council, 1931

Concubinage and Dowry.

I am directed by the Lieutenant-Governor to inform you that it is proposed to raise the question of concubinage, with the allied subject of dowry, at the forthcoming meeting of the Advisory Council in order to discuss the trend of public opinion brought about by the changes introduced into the social system caused by the slavery policy introduced with our administration of the country.

2. Owing to the fact that by reason of this policy all children born after the 31st of March, 1901 are freeborn, it can be said that there is not a virgin slave of age to be taken as concubine in the country. By the letter of the Moslem law, as interpreted in Nigeria as well as in other countries, a man can have only four legal wives by an unlimited number of slave concubines, though it may be held by authorities that only four wives or concubines may be maintained on legal status. It is perhaps possible that the custom of concubinage is dying out, but if not, it is difficult to see what way the new social order will evolve. A man with free-born concubines must by legal purist be considered as living with them in an extra-legal relationship. If concubinage however should continue this would lead to an impossible situation and some: legal fiction or adjustment of the law would appear to be necessary. How then is the Moslem conscience moulding public opinion on this question? [End Page 199]

3. It has been said that the prevailing moral laxity as regards marriage and divorce has been contributed to largely by the falling into desuetude of the giving of a substantial dowry. It is also said that the custom of “deferred” dowry was once in force in certain parts of the country and it is suggested that the question might be discussed with a view to ascertaining the opinion of the Chiefs as to the extent to which the above matters have influenced the situation and as to whether the practise of “deferred” dowry would have a restraining effect on capricious divorce.

4. A footnote to page 56 of Russell’s “Muhammadan Law of Marriage” reads as follows:-

“In theory the marriage is complete as from the conclusion of the contract and the rights of the parties rest thereon, so that the woman is entitled to the immediate payment of her dower; but in most Mohammedan countries custom authorises postponement of payment of some portion at least of the dower until after consummation, or even until after the husband’s death: any portion paid at once is called “nakd”, that which is deferred is called “kali”.3

5. Syed Ameer Ali in his “Mohammedan Law” writes on page 498:4

“As there is nothing in the Koran or in the traditions tending to show that the integral payment of the dower prior to consummation is obligatory in law, the later jurisdiction consults have held that a portion of the “mahr” should be considered payable at once or on demand and the remainder on the dissolution of the contract, whether by divorce or the death of either parties. Generally speaking, among the Mussulmans of India, the deferred dower is a penal sum, which is allowed to remain unpaid with the object of compelling the husband to fulfil the terms of the marriage-contract in their entirety.”

6. The subject of the punishment of Adultery in some Native Courts might be here referred to. The Divisional Officer Wukari writes:-

“The punishment of adultery, in the Jukon tribe, prior to the British Administration is said to have been flogging of both the man and woman. On the advent of the British the flogging of the woman was replaced by a fine. Some years later the normal punishment became imprisonment for the man and a fine for the woman. This still remains the normal punishment in the Wukari, Takum and Donga Native Courts but of course the...


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