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Diverse contestations of widow inheritance in Kenya, Tanzania & Uganda Stella Nyanzi (PhD) Law, Gender & Sexuality Research Project, Faculty of Law, Makerere.

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Presentation on theme: "Diverse contestations of widow inheritance in Kenya, Tanzania & Uganda Stella Nyanzi (PhD) Law, Gender & Sexuality Research Project, Faculty of Law, Makerere."— Presentation transcript:

1 Diverse contestations of widow inheritance in Kenya, Tanzania & Uganda Stella Nyanzi (PhD) Law, Gender & Sexuality Research Project, Faculty of Law, Makerere University P. O. Box 7062, Kampala. or 19 th July 2010; XVIII International AIDS Conference – Vienna, Austria

2 Introduction: exploring widowhood Widowhood is a universal experience. However the experience of widowhood is highly gendered: men and women go through it differently. Widowhood is also very context-specific: different communities enact widowhood in diverse forms. Some cultural mandates for widowhood enforce the violation and abuse of diverse human rights particularly of widows and their dependants. Widowhood is widely stigmatised due to HIV.

3 Stigma attached to death in the HIV era What are the experiences of widows ? => How do they deal with widow inheritance?

4 Methods Post-colonial feminist paradigm Social construction and grounded theory Rural & urban areas in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania Participant observation, interviews, focus group discussions, policy review. Verbatim transcription, translation, data entry. Data analysis facilitated by CAQDAS – Atlas.ti. Ethical considerations and review mechanisms.

5 Data collection Ethnography Qualitative methods Policy review Literature review Participant observation Interviews with policy people Textual analysis Individual interviews Focus group discussions  Triangulation of: 1) methods 2) data sources 3) study population groups

6 The complexity of widow inheritance The notion of “Harmful traditional practices”  Associated with license & high risk sexual behavior. *****Sexual cleansing in order to redress pollution. However... 1.It is also a traditional custom instituted to provide for the widow and her orphans in many patriarchal societies through the family of the in-laws. 2.Some widows from practising communities initiate the widow inheritance processes as appeasement. 3.It does not always involve sexual intercourse.  Both positive and negative aspects to it.

7 Widow inheritance, widow cleansing Ambivalence in meanings. Variant performances by ethnic groups, clans. Transforming meanings and signification. Transformations introduced by targeted interventions e.g. religion and HIV and AIDS.

8 Group 1: “A right to our culture!” Widow inheritance Cleansed from pollution by death Retain support from in-laws Maintain property Appease the deceased Progeny belong to one patrilineal clan A right to ‘our culture’ No social welfare support!

9 Group 2: Widowhood and ‘bad sex’ Widow sexualities Deviant Abusive Exploitative Danger to RH Social stigma High risk for STIs, HIV & AIDS Harmful customs Criminal Violence Foreign Taboo immoral

10 Widowhood and ‘bad sex’ Youth sexualities Deviant Abusive Exploitative Danger to RH Social stigma High risk for STIs, HIV & AIDS Harmful customs Criminal Violence Foreign Taboo immoral banned, prohibited, controlled, punished Diverse institutionalised punitive mechanisms

11 Widow(er) sexualities as rights Widow sexualities Exploration Sexual function Performance Fantasy Love Romance Expression Experimentation Desire Pleasure Enjoyment Erotic Feelings Etc.

12 Local strategies of contestation Symbolic sex rituals as opposed to sexual intercourse e.g. jumping over legs, jumping over the widow’s inner belt, urination in the same spot, simulations of sex. Legal redress through pro bono/ subsidised services e.g. FIDA Cultural reversal by asking for female levirate guardians. Claims of contagion through their HIV-infected bodies. Religion and faith as an antithesis to ‘ritual sex’ customs. Widow support networks: success stories are exchanged and strategies assembled. Rejection of in-laws’ support (sometimes also losing property) Tanzania – feminist education and media campaigns based on the human rights paradigm

13 Acknowledgement This research was funded by UNESCO’s Division for Gender Equality in the Office of the Director-General within the context of its UNAIDS Unified Budget and Work-plan (UBW) funded project entitled “Transforming the Mainstream: Addressing Structural Gender-related Vulnerabilities to HIV and AIDS”. This initiative seeks to strengthen national and international capacities and skills to support gender- transformative strategies that help eliminate the structural gender inequalities that are driving the AIDS pandemic. This particular research project on widow inheritance builds on a joint United Nations project coordinated by the UNESCO Nairobi Office that aimed at addressing vulnerability to HIV infection through harmful cultural practices.


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