“Wife Inheritance” and the Fate of Widows in Luo Society in Kenya: A Philosophical Appraisal
“Wife Inheritance” was initiated with good intentions and had many functional values. The custom once held an honourable promise as it protected and catered for the welfare of the widowed and orphaned members of the Luo community. The main aim of the study was to give a critical appraisal of the levirate custom among the Luo of Kenya. The paper specifically examines the impact of the custom on the freedom and individual development of the Luo widow. The research was qualitative with its sources being both library and field study. It employed the Critical-Analytical, Phenomenological and the Speculative Philosophical methods, thus the Holistic approach. It also used the rational and Historical methods to trace the historical development of the custom. The questionnaires and tape-recording were some of the tools used in data collection. Tables, graphs and charts were used in data analysis and presentation. The major findings of the study indicate that the Luo levirate custom is oppressive to the widow. It undermines her freedom of choice, growth and development. The custom perpetuates male dominance and female subordination. The Levirate custom, as a means of taking care of the widowed and orphaned members of the society, should be continued but in a modified, new form, devoid of abuses and elements that are incongruent with the contemporary existential challenges. The aspects which undermine individual freedom, growth and development, the dignity of human sexuality and those that spur the spread of HIV/AIDS in the community should be discarded, whereas those that are valuable and relevant to the needs of the modern man be continued. A lot of research has been done on the Luo custom; however, this study provides a new approach in addressing the problems posed by the practice.
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