Among the Edo it is an exceedingly common thing for a girl to bear children before marriage, and in one village I found a case in which a daughter of one of the principal men had been living with a man for years, and was not yet married to him because the father raised an objection.
Such a state of things would be virtually impossible among the Ibo, it appears to be considered rather disgraceful for a girl to bear a child unless she has a suitor, though it is a comparatively minor matter who the father is. At Awka the father can compel a girl’s lover to marry her, and the two families settle the bride price together.
It has been mentioned above that a good deal of value is laid upon the virginity of the bride in the Asaba district. If the husband finds that the girl for whom he has been paying the price has had friends previously to her going to his house he indicates it by marking the yams and the fish which are sent to the parents when the girl returns to their house.
Anthropological Report on the Ibo-Speaking Peoples of Nigeria (Biafra), PARTS I and IV by Northcote W Thomas (Harrison and Sons, London) 19Hb
The basic ketubbah of a virgin (two hundred maneh [one maneh=fifty shekels]) was double that of a non-virgin (one hundred maneh) (Mishnah Ketubbot 1:2). Those who were divorced or widowed while betrothed but before marriage retain their status of virgin.
This difference was doubled in the case of the daughter of a priest who was a virgin, whose basic ketubbah was four hundred maneh (Mishnah Ketubbot 1:5).
This distinction emphasizes the value of virginity and the significance of sexual exclusivity on the part of the woman to her husband and, in the case of the priest, the value of caste status.
Legal-Religious Status of the Virgin
by Tirzah Meacham (leBeit Yoreh)
Barr Emeka Maduewesi