After the demise of a husband, his bereaved wife is required by culture to remarry a male relative from her late husband’s family, often his brother or a close relative, through a cultural and social practice famously known as “tero/lako” in other terms wife inheritance. Among the communities which cherish this practice are the Luo Community and it’s been popular among them since time immemorial. Furthermore, the practice is often referred as a levirate marriage, that which can be found in ancient and biblical times. However; in the recent days, wife inheritance has been considered a retrogressive norm that take people backwards and should be done away with.

This cultural practice is considered to be resting on four pillars by those holding staunchly to it. According to Luo culture, widow inheritance was put in place to ensure the security of the bereaved, the remaining wealth and the children of the deceased. In a case where a man died leaving the wife and children, the one who inherited the wife was expected to protect her, help in upbringing of the family and coaching the children- a task that was seen cumbersome to a widow.

Lineage continuity and genealogy form part of the pillars of wife inheritance expounding on why the inheritor had to come from the family of the deceased. It is believed that similar genes belong to people of the same family and bringing an external “blood” to inherit a widow would pollute the existing gene in the family. Through this the families were in a position to safeguard talents, gifts, abilities and any other fortunes within the family.

This cultural norm is however facing controversies from the present generation outlining it as that which is infringing women’s right by denying opportunity to make their own decision. Despite children upbringing being one of the reasons behind inheritance, widows who found themselves in the hands of this practice often complain of getting zero support from the men who inherit them. According to women, present day inheritance is entirely sex and “good food” centered. Women Rights Organizations and Feminists have classified this practice as form of gender based violence against women.

In areas where high HIV prevalence has been recorded such us in Luo Nyanza region, this practice has been painted one of the propelling factors. People hardly take into consideration what caused the death of the husband and what could be the status of the widow. On the same note, there are no medical measures that are put in place to confirm the status of the one coming in to take place of the late. This careless behavior exposes both the parties to risk of contracting HIV/AIDS.

On the other hand, Luo council of elders Chief Elder Apollo Bwana speaking during a popular TV show says that wife inheritance was originally done in an organized manner that was sacred. According to him, inheritance process was initiated one year after the burial of the late husband, where the elders called the widow and asks her to choose among her dead husband’s brothers or close cousins. In a case where the widow got it difficult to make this decision, she was given some more time to consult from the elderly women on the right decision to make and also for moral support.

Chief Elder Apollo says wife inheritance isn’t the leading cause of HIV/AIDS transmission as it has been perceived; sex is the leading cause according to him. He adds that many are times when women reject inheritance but latter sneak out in search for sex or sneak in men for the same. He emphasizes that the present people have failed to understand clearly the basis of this practice. “With the change in time and the change of understanding on how things are done is the beginning of confusion,” Concludes Chief Elder Apollo.