African 'Culture' Spreads HIV
Report; Posted on: 2005-10-08 00:08:08

Custom made for the spread of Aids

By David Blair in Mbingwa

Shaded by a grove of mopane trees, the village cemetery was strewn with fresh graves, most filled by victims of Africa's Aids epidemic who never reached the age of 30.

Fanny Mbewe knelt in silent prayer beside her husband's unmarked resting place. Anyone who wonders why Aids has spread faster in Africa than anywhere else in the world needs only to consider her experience.

With millions of other women, Mrs Mbewe fell victim to a tradition known as "kulowakufa" which dictates that any woman whose husband dies must submit to sex with one of his male relatives.

This, supposedly, "cleanses" her of her spouse's spirit. But, given the risk this tradition carries, it might as well have been designed to spread Aids.

After her husband, James, died in a car accident three years ago, Mrs Mbewe was forced to have sex with his cousin. The man who "cleansed" her was a well-known drunkard, married with several children.

Mrs Mbewe's fear of catching Aids caused her to flee Mbingwa in rural Malawi and seek refuge with her sister-in-law, Rose. But her relatives tracked her down and insisted that she submit.

"My sister-in-law said, 'Why are you running away? This is our culture, you must do this.'"

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Source: Telegraph • Printed from National Vanguard
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