Widow Cleansing

It might seem I am Patriarchal in my viewpoint, but that is really not the case.  I am finding injustices against women and children in this world that cry out for change.  When I find them, I need to write about them.  I need to know and I think others might as well. No matter where these circumstances occur, they need to be exposed.

In sub-Saharan Africa, there exists a practice called widow cleansing. Widows are forced to have sex with the brother, or another relative, of her deceased husband. In some cases, men, called joters, are paid to do this.

The cleansing lasts from 3 to 7 days.  At the end, the woman must burn all her clothes and her head is shaved.  Should a woman refuse to undergo this process, she is cursed and held responsible for her husband’s death.  Her home and property might be taken away. In rural Kenya, widows are treated horribly.  They are considered impure and the cleansing is to chase away demons.  Women who resist run the risk of losing their children.

One of the relevant issues these widows face is that of contracting HIV/Aids.  ln an area where HIV/Aids is highly prevalent, this risk of contagion is real.  Professional cleansers are not tested for sexually transmitted diseases. In Kenya, few men live beyond age 40.

Widow cleansing is a patriarchal, superstitious process that is best dealt with through education.  As a result, it occurs in rural areas more than anywhere else.  When education occurs, cultural expectations shift and widows can heal.

Of course, some women choose to go through widow cleansing by choosing the partner who will cleanse them.  One woman I read about, in time fell in love with her professional cleanser, although the man said he might be a cleanser again if paid enough.  In Kenya, pay for a ritual cleansing runs about $260.  Compared to an average income of $13, the money is attractive. Widow cleansing is slowly being eradicated as education moves into rural areas.

 

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