Wife Inheritance among the Luo Community: Its nature, functions, practice and potential for the spread of HIV /AIDS in Siaya District
Ogutu, Celina A
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This study explores the controversial cultural practice of wife inheritance among the Luo ethnic group of Kenya, specifically those living in Siaya District. It compares responses obtained from Siaya residents with those of Luos living in Nairobi. The focus is on the nature of wife inheritance, as conducted traditionally, and the changes it has undergone, bringing it to its current mode of practice. In addition, reasons for these changes are discussed at length, and various sociological theories on change are used to explain them. The study also looks at the perceptions on, and attitudes of various stakeholders towards both modes of the practice, and the factors that influence these perceptions and attitudes. Finally, the study reviews the possible link between this practice and the spread of HIV and AIDS in Siaya. The study found that most Luos whether educated or illiterate, whether urban or rural dwellers and whether young or old have considerable knowledge of this practice. However, pockets of inconsistency and conflicting information were evident in discussions with the various respondents. While practitioners were found to be largely Siaya residents, support for this cultural practice was also evident in Nairobi. There is general consensus that traditionally, the practice had extremely noble attributes. However, its current mode of practice was criticized as unacceptable, with a few respondents calling for its total elimination, while others calling for its modification to render it meaningful. Respondents in the study were found to be on the defensive, with a majority disagreeing with claims by medical experts that this practice is the main factor fueling the spread of HIV and AIDS in Siaya and other districts in Nyanza. To support this denial, respondents listed a myriad of other factors, which, in their opinion, are contributing more to the spread of this epidemic. The study concluded that traditional beliefs are a force to reckon with, and that it is not that simple to wipe away a practice such as this. Rather, it is recommended that awareness campaigns be intensified on the consequences of unprotected sex, the meaning of HIV and AIDS, the importance of individual rights, and many other related issues, so that practitioners make inform.