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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 November, 2003, 18:55 GMT
Is tradition to blame for spreading HIV?
Bride
Married women are expected to inherit their brother-in-law

A group of widows in western Kenya have formed a club to fight against wife inheritance, blaming the age-old tradition for spreading the HIV virus.

According to the custom - widely practised by the Luo community - a widow remarries a brother-in-law or a suitor chosen by village elders.

Most members of the Obwanda Distress Relief Club are HIV positive and they blame their status on the practice.

Aids campaigners have also condemned other traditions such as circumcision for spreading the disease.

Given the HIV pandemic that has gripped the African continent, are these traditional practices still justified?

Join the BBC's Africa Live programme Wednesday 19 November at 1630 and 1830 GMT.

Use the form on the right to send us your comments, some of which will be published below.

If you would like to take part in the discussion, e-mail us with your telephone number, which will not be published.


Your Comments:

There are many customs in Africa that need to be abandoned. This one is one of the most repugnant. However, change will only come from educating the community. The wives are often left destitute and disempowered and therefore the men take advantage of this to "inherit" them. Also, the elders and other community members tell the women that evil will befall the community if they do not "inherit" them. This plays on the women's psyche and makes them guilty. The age of HIV/AIDS needs to signal an end to all these old traditions that not only spread the disease and bring death to women.
Jackie, USA

The age of HIV/AIDS needs to signal an end to all these old traditions that not only spread the disease and bring death to women
Jackie, USA

We fear Aids more than we fear than terrorism. I suggest that more prevention should be imposed on the African communities to stop their traditional beliefs. These things need to be put into consideration: women mutilation, unsafe circumcision, unsafe sex etc. Aids does not consider how important your traditions are, or how important you think you are. Aids has no cure but there are prevention measures. Since we all know that prevention is better than cure, why shouldn't we have that in mind?
Garang Yong, Sudanese/Canada

The party is not over yet. Whereas Uganda may have registered some progress, the external and foreign cultures like nude dancing and the desire to dress and behave like foreigners continue to pressurize our girls to achieve this - they end up having sex with men who can provide them hence the spread of HIV - Sez Tusubira in Mende-Busiro.

No tradition, culture or practice in this world can be sustained as justifiable if it endangers peoples lives.
Andrea, Canada

In instances where women are forced into these relationships it is very wrong not simply for reasons to do with the spread of HIV/Aids but for the fact that choice is not afforded these women. However, to simply attribute the spread of HIV/Aids to cultural practices without a comprehension of their background and contribution to the social fabric is great folly.
Ekaette, Nigerian

No, it is poverty that is to blame for the spreading of HIV in our African societies.
Mohammed S.Kamara,

We are very quick to criticise customs which are different from our own.
Amongst the Luo community the purpose of wife inheritance is to ensure the widow is left with support, crucial for any widow, especially where poverty is such an issue
Christina Marcham, South Africa
These customs are embedded in society and play an important role. Amongst the Luo community the purpose of wife inheritance is to ensure the widow is left with support, crucial for any widow, especially where poverty is such an issue. There are many practices in the West which to many would seem barbaric: penis enlargements, breast enlargements, body piercing etc. These cultural practices must be addressed in a sensitive manner to make any Aids prevention programmes effective. Respecting the ceremony behind the practice and looking to adapt the practice rather than condemn it, does not smack of such cultural imperialism and is more effective in behaviour change. For example, reducing the severity of the genital cutting in female circumcision or using a symbolic substitute rather than cut the labia, would not end these important traditional practices but adapt them to reduce any HIV risk.
Christina Marcham, South Africa

I am curious: how do you arrive at your statistics on the AIDS situation in Africa, and indeed the world? I have lived in Nigeria all my life and I am yet to see people dropping dead on the street or my neighbour's children becoming orphans. But your figures scare me. Just tell me the methodology you use to arrive at those numbers. Thanks
zimuzor okafor, Nigeria




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