05 Lawrence Osano Is Wife Inheritance An Impediment In H I V

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05 Lawrence Osano Is Wife Inheritance An Impediment In H I V

  1. 1. Are Cultural practices Impediment in HIV/AIDS Control, Prevention and Management?
  2. 2. An oral paper presentation made at the 5th S.A.H.A.R.A Conference on 30th Nov – 3rd December 2009 Johannesburg, South Africa
  3. 3. By Lawrence Osano ILLUMINATE AFRICA INITIATIVE – KENYA P. O Box 43031 00100 NAIROBI TEL: 254 020 2340 914 Mobile: 254 722 491 276 FAX: 254 020 313 171 Email: washataa@gmail.com
  4. 4. Introduction The rapid spread of HIV/AIDS has created challenges to everyone who is involved in the fight against it.
  5. 5. • Many of the strategies to prevent the spread of the pandemic have focused on promotion of condom use, reducing the numbers of sexual partners, being faithful and treating sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) among other measures
  6. 6. • Unfortunately, we have failed to appreciate and respect some the African traditions and culture in combating the pandemic.
  7. 7. • This paper therefore examines how wife inheritance and 'Chira' as cultural practices including polygamy and poverty are impediment in HIV/AIDS control, prevention and management with a case study from the Luo ethnic community in western part of Kenya.
  8. 8. Wife (widow) Inheritance • Wife inheritance is a practice especially among the Luo, the third largest ethnic community in Kenya. Luo traditional practices and culture provides for continuity in the family.
  9. 9. • A Luo family just as most of the African communities is made up of man, wife or wives, sons, daughters and an extended family and the man the most central figure of every Luo homestead.
  10. 10. • In the ancient days, the presence of a man in the Luo homestead was personified by a cock and a tall stick, sticking out of the apex of the roof of his hut.
  11. 11. • Both were present in each man’s homestead and if the man died, then the stick was cut and the cock slaughtered.
  12. 12. • In dholuo, the cutting of the stick is known as ‘turo osuri’ and this act symbolically creates room for a new man to come in and ‘put on the shoes’ for the late.
  13. 13. • This is where widow inheritance comes in for continuity of the family more so, women who are within the bracket of child bearing age so as to continue reproducing where there could be need,
  14. 14. • to make sure that the family is fed, educated and clothed with shelter over their heads. He fully assumed total duties and responsibilities of the late man.
  15. 15. • Interestingly, even the man’s (wife) wives never had objection and could welcome this new ‘co- wife’ and offer necessary guidance and counseling wherever required
  16. 16. • In the olden days, the inheritor was strictly expected to come from within the clan and next of kin to the dead husband i.e. his brothers or cousins, but this is no longer the case as they can be inherited by those who are outside the clan.
  17. 17. • An inheritor was a man of high integrity and really commanded a lot of respect and in most cases could automatically become a part of the council of elders, the powerful decision-making units and advisers in the community.
  18. 18. • A man could marry many wives (polygamy) so as to have many sons to protect his property that was mainly land and look after his herds of cattle. A Luo society is patrilineal in that only males are allowed according to traditions to inherit since it was believed that women would get their shares where they are married property.
  19. 19. • Even though HIV/AIDS was not quite disaster in Africa until early 80’s and if a man happened to have died of HIV/AIDS or any related deaths and the surviving wife is HIV positive, villages could just whisper since it was a taboo to talk about death or just calling the name of the deceased so the inheritor would automatically be infected and later go back to the man’s spouses.
  20. 20. • When it is a wife who happens to die and leaves behind a widower, then the family of the late wife automatically gives another sister or cousin to surviving husband and the same case would appear if their was an infection.
  21. 21. • What of a situation where a woman or widow had died before being inherited?
  22. 22. • This was a purely private affair amongst the council of elders and it was their duty to identify who could ‘sleep’ with the dead body before she was buried. This case was different in that the performer was someone whose age did not really matter but mentally challenged, had no identity and not necessarily from the clan.
  23. 23. • He would then be given a meal and a liquor and finally set to task by the elders as they watch. This was meant to ‘cleanse and open the gate’ for the family’.
  24. 24. • This practice of wife inheritance has been abused and seems to have become a fashion in the luo community today for it the direct opposite of what used to happen in the old days. Young men are running to grab the widows whose husbands have died of unexplained diseases for purposes of pleasure and good life and would mostly abandon them after sometime for their incapacity to provide for the basic needs as the head of the house.
  25. 25. • These are young men in their elder 20’s or 30’s who either fail or refuse to listen to pieces of advice including having the blessings or good will from their parents.
  26. 26. • Mostly they are those who haven’t even married who opt for easy life. The community seems to have taken a low profile in offering guidance and leadership to its members thus causing the young ones to go astray. Besides unemployment to the youth as a root cause to this condemnable act, lack of having a role model from the community or the society could also be blamed.
  27. 27. • Even though this practice has claimed a lot of young lives due to the deadly disease, some have also died of unexplained deaths which are commonly referred to as ‘Chira.’ ‘Chira’ is a curse which befalls people who are seen to have gone against the customs and traditions of the society and not transmitted through sexual relationships hence there is no co- existence between 'Chira' and AIDS.
  28. 28. • Note that according to Luo customs, even a widow of 80 years goes through this ritual. It is not sex as some sources may have put it over the years. Luos, both men and women are superstitious and fearful people. They believe in the ghost of the dead that would hound them if they fail to do some of these rituals
  29. 29. Male dominance • In the male male-dominated community, a woman is not expected to participate in important decisions.
  30. 30. – A woman is considered to have no right even to ask a man to wear a condom and when it comes to sex it her duty is to oblige. She is used as a sex object and expected to suffer in silence. Even when men know the importance of taking precautions, they often cannot afford them. A packet of condoms costs almost the same as half a loaf of bread.
  31. 31. Conclusion • So what should we do?
  32. 32. • Wife inheritance as a cultural practice should be respected and practiced according to the traditions for it is a meaningful custom and even religious leaders should come forward and offer their guidance.
  33. 33. • Institute and encourage sex education policies and programmes especially to the teenagers who are now among those highly affected by HIV/Aids through media stations and in learning educational systems.
  34. 34. • Policy makers should be the society’s role model. They should also discuss this national disaster in their public functions and even lead in some of the preventive measures.
  35. 35. Thank you so much for listening to me God Bless Africa GOD BLESS ALL AMEN

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