Why Luo Men Inherit Widows
Do you remember this Himba culture from Namibia that adopted sex as a way of welcoming guests? Yes, you read that right. Tradition is an important help to history, but its statements should be carefully scrutinized before we rely on them.
Back to our motherland Kenya, is Luo men inheriting widows an abomination or a blessing? Members of the Luo Council of Elders stand on the grounds that inheritance is a healthy practice if undertaken appropriately.
They argue that the practice is majorly meant for enhancing the continuity of a family when a husband dies.
The elders say it is advisable for a woman to be inherited if her husband dies before she attains menopause.
The chairman of the Luo Council of Elders in Homa Bay County Joseph Gor argued that widow inheritance was meant for providing solace to both the widow and orphans.
“A widow becomes lonely after the death of a husband and the same applies to children. Widow inheritance provides comfort by enabling a widow to have someone who can perform the responsibilities of her husband. Children also have a person they can call a father,” Gor said.
He adds that “Another reason is to provide care for the family of a departed man. In this case, the man who inherits a widow should play the responsibilities of the late husband,”
On the contrary…
The sexual rituals surrounding death have also undergone changes to the point whereby most men are no longer interested in getting married to the spouses of their brothers. An offshoot of this change is the rise of a crop of men on the prowl, seeking to exploit women whose spouses have died.
These men pretend to remarry the women but their aim is to have access to the resources in the hands of the woman left by her dead husband and at the same time have sex with them. These men are locally termed “Professional Jater”, essentially translating to professionals in remarrying.
Some people have called termed the practice of remarrying “wife inheritance”, however, this term has no meaning to the Luo, for a wife was not seen as an object to be inherited. The Professional Jater, are characterized by their lack of material support for the woman they cohabit with, yet in the traditional practice of the Luo, remarriage was meant to ensure the woman got material support and her sexual needs were also met.
There are also women who upon the death of their spouses do not remarry but maintain multiple sexual partners. In terms of the potential for the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, these present practices pose more risk.
In one sense because the Professional Jater can move from one woman to another and if he is infected with a disease, then he can spread it, on the other hand, a woman who decides to maintain multiple partners could also spread the infection among his partners.