Skip to comments.African Custom made for the spread of Aids
Posted on 10/07/2005 6:31:07 PM PDT by Coleus
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. If you do not, people will say you have your husband's spirit. You will be blamed every time someone dies in the village'," Mrs Mbewe said. "I was afraid, but my relatives forced me to accept. I was especially afraid of the [Aids] virus. I was so afraid that I would get the virus and my children would be without their mother."
Despite her fear, Mrs Mbewe, who does not know her age, submitted to sex with her husband's relative. This took place in her old home while her son, Joseph, seven, and daughter, Margaret, five, were asleep in the room next door.
"The man was very dirty," said Mrs Mbewe. "He was a drunkard and a very dirty man. I washed myself when it was over."
Mrs Mbewe, like most people in the countryside, has never been tested for HIV and does not know whether she was infected by her encounter.
But at least 16 per cent of adult Malawians do have HIV or Aids. The epidemic has orphaned 600,000 of the country's children.
Campaigners have no doubt that this crisis can only be contained if traditions such as "kulowakufa" are ended. Yet rural Malawi, like much of Africa, is rife with other practices that are at least as risky.
If a man's wife dies, her parents may offer him another of their daughters for marriage, under a tradition known as "hlazi". Helen Makukula, of Women's Voice, a pressure group, pointed out the possible consequence of this.
If the wife died after contracting Aids from her husband, the girl handed over to become his new spouse will probably suffer the same fate. "It is almost impossible for a girl to refuse," she said. "Some girls have refused and ended up running away from the village."
Another tradition - "chimwanamwayo" - allows men to swap their wives for sex. Yet another allows a man who cannot conceive a child to invite a friend to impregnate his wife. Moreover, polygamy is common.
"We are spreading Aids with some of our cultural practices," said Mrs Makukula. "If they are stopped, Aids wouldn't be as serious as it is now. We have started preaching to the chiefs so that such practices are stopped. But it is a gradual process. I might be alive when it all stops, perhaps in 20 years."
Mrs Makukula's campaign must seek to end a way of life personified by Amos Machika Chisoni.
Since 1953 he has been responsible for "cleansing" all the widows in Ndanga village, a position which has earned him the title of "fisi", or "hyena", because he works in secret and by night.
Mr Chisoni, who is in his seventies, also has two wives. Asked why the local chief made him the "fisi", he replied: "Because I was going about with so many women. I had so many girlfriends."
By tradition, he has sex with each of his two wives before and after he "cleanses" a widow, a service for which he is paid one chicken. Mr Chisoni has never used a condom. But he has made one concession to the Aids epidemic.
"If I don't know what the husband died of, these days I am able to refuse to cleanse his widow," he said.
Asked whether a woman could refuse to be cleansed, Mr Chisoni replied: "No woman can refuse a 'fisi'." He added: "This tradition cannot stop because it has come to us from our parents and ancestors before them. I do not see it just ending."
Such is the nature of AIDS.
Even now America is "running short" of real homosexuals ~ (as if you could "run short" of those guys).
reading this article , one thing is very clear ; they are
f-ing themselves to death over there .
There's more to spreading African AIDS than this story relates. Google 'dry sex' sometimes.
And that is not even the real horror ritual...
The real horror is that men infected with the AIDS virus
believe that by having sex with a young virgin they can
rid themselves of the virus by giving it to a child...
Small children are the target of this evil and vile practice..
Of such is the nature of Africa, where life is short, nasty, and brutish..
No culture is inferior, just different.
This is politically correct drivel and BS.
There are inferior cultures who have no redeeming values. They are based on ignorance & stupidity and do nothing to expand the wellness of the human experience.
Culture is the defining difference that make great cultures great.
I would much rather be part of a superior culture that makes living worth while than live in an inferior culture that destroys the human experience.
I think he was being facetious
And I wonder what the basis is for your questioning of my statement?
what percantage of the population is involved in these practices? what if someone made a conclusion on american culture based on americans who have sex with animals, people who are involved in childhood porn, brothels in las vegas, television programs etc etc. I think that you should place everything into context, Do not be involved in sensationalism. Find out in Africa what percentage are involved in sex with minors, or how many people are involved in cleansing. Also find out what percentage are strict Christians and do not follow these practices.Then make an educated judgement
I didn't think the sarcasm tag was necessary. I was wrong.
"No culture is inferior, just different."
Please don't confuse race or people with their culture. There are plenty of good people being kept in inferior circumstances by their culture.
OOPS. Guess my sarcasm detector is as tired as I am tonight.
They need to be educated over there for sure. How sad that their beliefs are causing them death. They need help.
"All cultures are equal"...
Yeah, sure they are.
Yeah, I read about that in a Time (cover story I believe) article a while back. They are F-ed up over there.
The article also wanted us to send them more money. Screw that. If they want to screw themselves to death, fine, just don't do it on my dollar.
They've been disappearing. There are entire industries they used to dominate that are now in the hands of women.
Thanks for clearing this up!
And of course....our tax dollars and all the Bono tours will continue to fund these "primitive' cultures. Good God, why would anyone want to be called "African" American?
How about this tag for cultures..."Different and Lousy !"
If I hear one more time the term "cultural relativity" I will puke! why don't all the Libs go and live there if it is so great? Let's let Babs Streisand hang out in one of these villages for a few weeks.
what if someone made a conclusion on american culture based on americans who have sex with animals, people who are involved in childhood porn, brothels in las vegas, television programs etc etc. I think that you should place everything into context, Do not be involved in sensationalism.
In the U.S., such practices are looked down upon and are not acceptable behavior to the vast majority of our peoples. Much of such abhorrent sexual behavior is illegal (child porn, sex w/animals, etc.). In Africa, the cultural practices spoken to in this article are considered "acceptable" behavior, a cultural heritage to be honored and followed. In fact, there will be punishments for not following the cultural requirements. Big, big, difference. There are inferior cultures, and the ones that follow such practices as those in Africa need to come out of the stone age and quickly. Such behavior is self destructive to their very own people. It's like so many of the Muslim traditions where women are second class citizens, and that's on a good day. These are misogynist societies and I am so thankful I live in a country where such practices are outlawed.
I think they all went into the priesthood
Some education is in order here also. Many American blacks feel they should get reparations for having been taken from that continent and sold into slavery. They overlook the fact that it was their fellow blacks who sold them into slavery.
Can't you recognize sarcasm when you see it!!!
Better get some lead around you. (I wonder if you'll get that...)
which cultures? I am African and I have lived in Africa all my life. These practices are looked down upon too. I cannot defend the whole continents actions, but do not generalize. How many countries are in Africa? how many tribes have such traditions? how many tribes are there in each country? Ill give an example. In Kenya we have 50 tribes, with 5o different cultures and beliefes. But the most popular is Christianity with a higher percentage of us attending church than the American population. Cleansing does not happen in most of the tribes in Kenya. But it does happen. But is it a significant reason for the spread of HIV. No!!
And why HIV is spread faster in Africa, I really dont know. People are sleeping around, but not more significantly than the USA. With the percentages of people in the USA who have STDs, especially herpes, chlamydia and gonnorrhea, it seems a large percentage of the population are engaging in unprotected sex.
So stop trying to bring down African culture. We have our issues and we have made mistakes. But this constant ragging of Africa is sickening. Most of the nations in Africa are less than 40 years old. When USA was 40 years old there was segregation, slavery, abhorrent killing etc etc. I am just saying give us a chance to get things together. If you dont think that USA should give any more aid. That is your view on things. You can never argue with the giver, as they say, beggars have no foot to argue on. And so all that Africans can do is keep trying to survive, ask for help if people are willing. If people are not willing. Then we will continue trying to strive. But please, dont attack,attack.
I have a culture, a culture I am proud of. A culture that is based on respect of elders, respect of the environement and most of all respect for God. And my culture does not need to feel superior, because it lacks all ideations of inferiority.
Do not call my culture primitive !!!
Who are we to criticize...???
Evolution in action...
"It is a duty certainly to give our sparings to those who want; but to see also that they are faithfully distributed, and duly apportioned to the respective wants of those receivers. And why give through agents whom we know not, to persons whom we know not, and in countries from which we get no account, where we can do it at short hand, to objects under our eye, through agents we know, and to supply wants we see?" -- Thomas Jefferson (letter to Michael Megear, 29 May 1823)
When the USA was 40 years old, the year was 1816.
And those slaves were bought from tribes in Africa that apparently had that practice as part of *their* culture.
yes, and we were wrong, and so was your culture. but dont try to bring down my culture when your culture has had its shares of mistakes. Constructive criticism is always welcome, but sad to say, yours is criticsim that will hardly benefit anyone.
And are you saying that in 1816, or before that, the same people we call our founding fathers, and wrote the constitution and declaration of independence were therefore primitive for their involvement in slavery and numerous other abhorrations. And therfore the constitution which we hold so dear is a primitive document that therfore requires evolution?
I think you have me confused with someone else.
Yup. People believing in things without a shred of proof leads not only to brain corrosion but can be hazardous to your health.