Discuss the Nigerian Taboos from a Comparative Perspective – Term Paper


If there were one word that would describe the nature of culture, then it would be diversity. The world is full of diverse cultures each based on geographical location, religion, education, social beliefs and lifestyles. The good book advises us that we are all different and unique in our creation; thanks to the ultimate designer. Therefore, no two people are the same, even in the case of twins. There are some notable differences from one person to another. The same Bible goes ahead and tells us that we are all fearfully and wonderfully made. The observable and non-observable differences alike should not be a basis of discrimination, and we should focus on the bigger picture which is to heed the call of humanity and embrace each other regardless of the differences. For that reason, they came up with a famous phrase, same same but different, to promote and advocate for unity among humanity and detest from segregations of any sort.

When it comes to cultures, they differ from one community to another and what may seem right and acceptable by a particular group of people is regarded as a taboo by another. Although globalization often tries to unify people and reduce the differences, culture does not follow a one-size-fits-all kind of criteria and no culture can be defined as right or wrong. Culture share this same attribute with opinions; personal opinions are neither wrong nor right but have a lot to do with how the person justifies them. With that being said, globalization has an overall negative impact on the diversity of culture. This is a research paper that is going to expound on Nigerian taboos.

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Nigeria is a West African country that is one of the most populated countries on the planet. With a population of over 190 million people, it is one of the African countries that has tried to adhere to its cultures with a little influence from the West. A taboo is defined as a behavior, custom or act that is strictly forbidden based on social or religious reasons attached to it. Taboos are universal, and each community has taboos of its own. Taboos differ from population to population, and this paper will focus on the Nigerian ones. Nigeria is a diverse country in itself because of the massive migrations in and out of the country. There also has been notable invasions now and then and for this reason, the ethnicity differs from one part of the country to another. The differences in ethnicity have resulted to increased customs, beliefs and laws.


Nigerian taboos are meant to regulate the behavior of its citizens. For instance, in Nigeria, it is a taboo to engage in sexual behavior with a relative or a family member. According to the Nigerians belief system, the product of such an unholy union is likely to be mentally retarded and not fit to be part of the community. Similarly, the two individuals who engage is such a taboo must face punishment which is in most cases being banished from the community. This compares in the contemporary world in that incest is regarded a moral vice. Family members and relatives should never engage in sexual activities. Scientifically, the reason behind this is because such closely related people share common genes and in the event of conception, the child is likely to develop genetic disorders especially ones expressed in the homozygous recessive state.

Secondly, it is a taboo in Nigeria for a pregnant woman to wear a masquerade makeup. Face painting is strictly forbidden to pregnant women. Nigerians believe that masquerade makeups are ugly and not fit for a lady bearing a unique gift of life. They believe that there are chances that this woman will look like that for the rest of her life and should the woman deliver a live baby, she/he will be ugly for their entire lives. To prevent such occurrences of ugly children, women, regardless of whether pregnant or not were not allowed to paint their faces. In the modern day world, women have a freedom of choice; they can do whatever they want with their faces and paint them to their satisfactions. There is no known/documented science behind the effects of masquerade makeup to the woman and unborn child, and this taboo is largely based on myth and beliefs.

Another restriction held dear by the Nigerians is committing suicide. Nigerians, just like most other cultures, believe that life is a sacred gift. God is the sole creator of life, and for that reason, He is the only one with permission to take it away. Unlike homicide where the murderer can be punished, in suicide the one to be punished in this case is dead. However, since breaking a taboo cannot go unpunished, the family members of the deceased are fined for his mistakes. In the contemporary world, suicide is also detested by many including religious and political powers. It is considered a defeatist and cowardly way of dealing with ones problems. Nevertheless, punishing the family members of the deceased crime is just unheard of and absurd.

A Nigerian tribe called Urhobo believes that frequently using the left hand is a taboo. This tribe believes that most businesses should be done using the right hand. Therefore, using the left hand is associated with lack of respect and arrogance when dealing with people especially your elders or seniors. If an older adult stretched his/her hand for a handshake and you responded using your left arm, you were regarded as disrespectful. Most people in the society are right-handed. However, this does not mean that the left-handed people do not have a say or allowance in the society. Both sides are similar and function to serve the same purpose. Whichever hand one is comfortable using should not be a basis for judgment. As a fact, we all know some of the great left-handed people in the society who were/are doing just fine: Bill Clinton, Barrack Obama, Leonardo Da Vinci, among others.


Cultural taboos are unique and specific to the population in question. Of course, not all taboos should be taken literally. Some taboos are based on myths and speculations whereas some are based on pure guesswork. The human being was the only Gods creation that was given the right to free will. The people who came up with taboos had an intention of regulating the behaviors of human beings by scaring them using the power of nature and unexplained mystery and with great success. To date, some taboos are still followed to the letter whereas some became obsolete.