‘Sleeping with my dead husband’s brother!’ The impact of HIV and AIDS on widowhood and widow inheritance in Kampala, Uganda

Nyanzi, S; Emodu-Walakira, M; Serwaniko, W; (2011) ‘Sleeping with my dead husband’s brother!’ The impact of HIV and AIDS on widowhood and widow inheritance in Kampala, Uganda. In: Nguyen, Vinh-, Kim; Klot, Jennifer, (eds.) The Fourth Wave Violence, Gender, Culture & HIV in the 21st Century. UNESCO, pp. 295-318. ISBN 9231041584

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As death rates escalate due to the HIV and AIDS epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa, so do the numbers of widows and widowers (Barnett and Whiteside, 2002; De Cock et al., 2002; Hunter, 2003; Kalipeni et al., 2004). According to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS and the World Health Organization (UNAIDS/WHO, 2006), an estimated 24.5 million adults and children were living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa at the end of 2005. In the same year, an estimated 2 million people died from AIDS-related illnesses. While there are statistics of those orphaned due to HIV and AIDS (an estimate of 12 million African children), no recent data exist about widowhood. However, earlier studies (Ntozi, 1997; Potash, 1986) reported widowhood rates in some contexts to be as high as 1 in 4 adult women. There is also a lack of knowledge about the experience of widowhood in sub-Saharan Africa since the advent of HIV and AIDS. According to Potash (1986, p. 1), even ‘the limited treatment given to widowhood has focussed on the wrong questions’. In scholarly discourse, advocacy and public policy, widows are variously referred to as invisible, excluded, marginalized, secluded, neglected, dependent, vulnerable, peripheral, outcasts, disempowered and reclusive.1 Even where scholarly attention has been paid to this subject, Obbo (1986, p. 91, 86) contends that ‘the women’s point of view is muted’ and that ‘much of the literature focuses on norms, and little mention is made of actual practice’. This chapter focuses on contemporary practices and values attached to widowhood and widow inheritance in Uganda. It explores the gendered nature of the widowhood experience in the context of the HIV and AIDS pandemic and examines the gender dimensions of contemporary widow inheritance among Baganda. The chapter draws its findings from forty-four qualitative individual interviews and seven focus group discussions carried out among the Baganda who were predominantly urban slum-dwellers across ten zones near the Kasubi market in Rubaga-North Division of Kampala.

Item Type: Book Section
Faculty and Department: Faculty of Public Health and Policy > Dept of Global Health and Development
URI: http://researchonline.lshtm.ac.uk/id/eprint/2602501


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