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Who stop the killing of twins
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For many centuries in Nigerian society, there existed a belief in the supernatural powers of twins, and this belief often led to the killing of one or both twins at birth. This was done for fear of the perceived consequences of allowing them to live. The practice of twin killing was a part of the traditional beliefs and practices of many Nigerian communities, and it was widely accepted until the late 19th century. However, the killing of twins was eventually abolished and outlawed, thanks to the efforts of missionaries and activists who campaigned against the practice. This article delves into the history of twin killing in Nigeria, explores the factors that led to its eventual abolition, and examines the impact of this change on Nigerian society.
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The Origin of Twin Killing

For centuries, the Igbo people of Nigeria practiced a tradition known as 'ibi ugwu' which translates to 'evil forest.' According to their beliefs, twins were considered to be an abomination and were believed to bring bad luck to their families and communities. This belief led to the killing of one or both twins shortly after their birth. The act was usually carried out by leaving the infants in the forest to die of exposure or by drowning them in streams and rivers.

Traditional Beliefs and Practices

The practice of twin killing was deeply ingrained in the Igbo culture and was seen as a necessary sacrifice to appease the gods. The belief was reinforced by the fear that twins were evil spirits sent by the gods to cause harm to their families and communities. The killing of twins was not only accepted but was also considered to be a social responsibility. The practice continued until the late 19th century when Christian missionaries began to campaign against it.

The Campaign Against Twin Killing

One of the most significant figures in the fight against twin killing was Mary Slessor, a Scottish Presbyterian missionary who arrived in Calabar (present-day southeastern Nigeria) in 1876. Slessor's efforts led to the rescue of many twins who would have been killed and marked a significant turning point in the fight against the brutal practice. She lived among the Efik people, learned their language, and worked to understand their beliefs and practices. Slessor challenged their beliefs and advocated for the protection of twins.

Mary Slessor and the Missionary Efforts

Slessor's work inspired other Christian missionaries who followed in her footsteps. They established mission stations across the region and worked to change the people's attitudes towards twins. The missionaries taught the Igbo people that Christianity does not consider twins to be evil and encouraged them to embrace the concept of love and compassion for all children. The widespread conversion of the people to Christianity led to a significant reduction in the incidence of twin killing.

The Role of Christian Missionaries in Stopping Twin Killing

Christianity played a significant role in stopping twin killing. Its teachings on love and compassion for all human life helped to change the people's attitudes towards twins. The missionaries also worked to convert the chiefs and village elders, who wielded significant power and influence, and who had initially supported the practice of twin killing. The conversion of these key figures led to the abolition of the practice in many parts of the region.

Understanding of Christianity and its Attitude Towards Twins

Christianity's teaching that all life is sacred helped to change the people's attitudes towards twins. The missionaries emphasized that Christianity does not consider any child to be evil or to bring bad luck to their families. They taught that every child is a gift from God and should be cherished and loved.

Conversion of Chiefs and Village Elders

The chiefs and village elders were instrumental in enforcing the tradition of twin killing. However, with the work of the missionaries, many of them were converted to Christianity, and their attitudes towards twins changed. They became advocates for the protection of twins and worked to ensure that the practice of twin killing was abolished.

The Emergence of Laws Against Twin Killing in Nigeria

The introduction of British colonial rule in Nigeria and the influence of Western values led to the emergence of laws against twin killing. The British colonial government recognized the inhumanity of twin killing and worked to abolish the practice. The Abolition of Twin Killing Law of 1915 made the killing of twins illegal and punishable by law.

Introduction of British Colonial Rule and Western Values

The British colonial government, which came to power in Nigeria in 1861, brought with it Western values and attitudes towards human life. The government recognized the inhumanity of twin killing and worked to abolish the practice.

The Abolition of Twin Killing and its Enforcement

The Abolition of Twin Killing Law of 1915 made the practice of twin killing illegal. The law was enforced by the British colonial government, and those found guilty of the practice were punished. Today, twin killing is no longer a part of Igbo culture, and twins are cherished and celebrated. The fight against twin killing is a testament to the power of human compassion and the role that religion and cultural exchange can play in changing attitudes and practices.
The Repercussions of Stopping Twin Killing in Nigerian Society


The practice of killing twins was prevalent in Nigeria for centuries. However, in the late 19th century, a British missionary named Mary Slessor began to intervene to save the lives of twins. Since then, many changes have occurred in Nigerian society, with the cessation of the practice of twin-killing having a significant impact.

Societal Changes and Resistance


The eradication of twin-killing has resulted in significant social changes in Nigeria. With more twins surviving, families have adjusted to caring for multiple children at the same time. There has also been increased resistance to the practice of killing twins, with communities speaking out against it. However, some traditionalists still resist change and continue to hold on to the belief that twins are evil.

The Impact on Traditional Beliefs and Practices


The practice of twin-killing was steeped in traditional beliefs and practices, with twins being seen as evil and bringing misfortune. With the cessation of this practice, some traditional beliefs have given way to more modern beliefs and values. However, many Nigerians still hold on to traditional beliefs, and some believe that the eradication of twin-killing has brought about a loss of culture.

Contemporary Attitudes Towards Twins in Nigeria


In contemporary Nigeria, attitudes towards twins are varied, with some viewing them as a sign of good luck and others viewing them as a source of trouble.

Twin Worship and Celebrations


In some parts of Nigeria, twins are worshipped and celebrated. In the Yoruba culture, twins are believed to have supernatural abilities and are highly revered. There are also twin festivals that celebrate the birth of twins.

Perceptions and Stigma of Twins as ‘Double Trouble’


However, there are also negative perceptions of twins, with some seeing them as ‘double trouble’ due to the extra responsibility that comes with caring for two children at once. Twins are also sometimes stigmatized, with some people believing that they are prone to mischief and deceit.

The Legacy of Those Who Stopped Twin Killing


The cessation of the practice of twin-killing has had a lasting impact on Nigerian society.

Recognition and Appreciation by Nigerian Society


Mary Slessor, the missionary who fought against the practice of twin-killing, is still remembered and celebrated in Nigeria. Her legacy lives on, and she is seen as a hero who saved the lives of countless twins.

The Continued Influence of Missionaries


Missionaries played a significant role in stopping twin-killing in Nigeria. Their influence has continued to be felt in Nigerian society, with many churches and religious organizations actively promoting the rights of twins.

Twinning in Modern Nigerian Culture


In modern Nigerian culture, twins continue to play a significant role, with their presence being felt in popular culture.

Twins in Nollywood and Popular Culture


In Nollywood, Nigeria's film industry, twins are often featured prominently in storylines and are seen as a source of good luck. In music, twin singers like P-Square have gained widespread popularity.

Challenges and Opportunities for Modern Twins in Nigeria


While twins are celebrated in modern Nigerian culture, they also face unique challenges. Twins may struggle to establish their individual identities and may face discrimination in certain contexts. However, they also have unique opportunities, such as participating in twin festivals or becoming successful entertainers.In conclusion, the cessation of twin killing in Nigeria was a significant milestone in the country's history. It was a triumph of human rights and a testament to the power of advocacy and social activism. While contemporary attitudes towards twins in Nigeria continue to be complex, the abolition of twin killing remains an important legacy that has had a lasting impact on the country's culture and society.

Frequently Asked Questions


Why was twin killing practiced in Nigeria?

Twin killing was practiced in Nigeria due to the belief that twins possessed supernatural powers, and as such, posed a threat to the community. Twins were considered to be an aberration and a bad omen, and their birth was seen as a sign of impending doom.

When was twin killing abolished in Nigeria?

The abolition of twin killing in Nigeria can be traced back to the late 19th century when Christian missionaries began campaigning against the practice. However, it was not until the 20th century that the practice was outlawed and officially stopped.

What role did Christian missionaries play in stopping twin killing?

Christian missionaries played a significant role in stopping twin killing in Nigeria. They preached against the practice and used their influence to persuade local chiefs and village elders to abolish the practice. They also established orphanages to care for twins who had been abandoned due to the practice.

What is the current perception of twins in Nigerian society?

The perception of twins in Nigerian society is complex. While there is a growing appreciation of twins and their uniqueness, there are still some negative attitudes towards them. Twins are often seen as "double trouble" and can face discrimination and stigma. At the same time, there are also celebrations and ceremonies that honor twins and their special bond.
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