African tradition may fuel AIDS

In Kenya, the custom of wife inheritance means that when a man dies, his widow is passed on as part of his estate. And if he died of AIDS, she may not be all that’s passed on.

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The traditional practice has been condemned by some as a major factor in the escalation of the AIDS epidemic in parts of Kenya, but attempts to ban it face strong resistance. Some of that resistance has come from religious leaders, who say the custom is essential to provide for widows. “It is not only for (sexual) intercourse that wives are inherited … they are inherited so that their economic needs are taken care of,” one clergyman told the PANAFRICAN NEWS AGENCY.

Another cleric argues that arresting wife inheritors, as provincial officials have proposed, could have terrible consequences for women by driving widows into prostitution to provide for themselves.