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The Iko Marriage Tradition (1/2)

The Iko tradition, otherwise known as the institutionalization of sexual intercourse, remains a cultural relic amongst the Ngwa subgroup of the Igbo people. Although nearly irrelevant in modern times, in pre-colonial Ngwa society the four varieties of this practice were prevalent and represented the accommodating nature of Igbo culture, as they allowed married and unmarried men and women to forge temporary sexual contracts for social and economic aims.

This open relationship could involve three or more partners and could be chartered between a married couple and a widow, bachelor, or unmarried woman. With mutual consent, either a husband or a wife would find an Iko (lover), with whom they would regularly trade sex for assistance in labor intensive economic pursuits such as farming or for childbearing purposes. In the Oke Iko variety, two highly-ranking individuals would visit one another regularly, but due to social status, the male partner would avoid frequenting the home of his lover’s husband.

In the Tukwuru Olia variety, a change of residence is effected, as either party may temporarily relocate to the other’s compound. Having settled in his lover’s husband’s compound, the male Iko, recognizing his subservient position to his lover’s husband would assist in household chores.#igbohistory


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