The Hibjab in Nigeria, the Woman's Body and the Feminist Private/Public Discourse

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This essay explores Nigerian women's negotiation of public and private spheres through the meanings of hibjab (Islamic head covering for women) has taken in different contexts, both liberating and limiting women. In the 1970s with the new oil economy, increasing migration to cities and the expansion of education for women, greater numbers of women begin appearing in public spaces in urban areas. They begin wearing the hibjab to protect themselves from verbal assaults from men who objected to their presence in public. The impracticality of the hibjab for rural women engaged in farming meant that the debate over the hibjab remained an urban, middle-class debate. Even with urban women, the hibjab was initially a choice, and one that gave them the freedom to move about in public. The author traces how the hibjab eventually became compulsory. With the collapse of education, Izala (a reformist movement that seeks to enforce a strict application of the shar'iah) and other Islamic organizations begin to replace the state in offering services such as health care and education. Women who wished to access the services of these organizations were compelled to conform to their ideas of proper dress for women, which included the hibjab. The author concludes by noting that the compulsory hibjab has contributed to an erosion of divesity in Nigerian culture.

Last modified
  • 01/01/2019
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  • 09-003
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