By John Chimunhu
Now Daily Analysis
‘Wife inheritance’, the practice of marrying a close relative’s spouse if he dies is wrong and violates the constitution. The Zimbabwean constitution says every citizen above 18 has a right to form a family. It does not say people should have families formed for them by their relatives.
Wife inheritance is despicable. It deprives women of their right to choose their partner. Usually, it also deprives them of property rights as, in societies where it is practiced in Zimbabwe, the successor husband takes over control of his departed relative’s wealth. The woman is considered part of that booty.
Wife inheritance has enriched quite a lot of people. Wealth is the greatest imperative for most of the men who choose to marry someone else’s wife. They also crave status which comes with inheriting a rich man’s estate.
Unfortunately, in the age of AIDS, wife inheritance has also become a major driver of disease. There are no HIV tests prior to taking over the brother or uncle’s wife. Everything is pre-set by relatives, who will require that the man inheriting a wife mates with her as soon as possible and have children. Usually, the woman will be told that she must have a son and name him after her departed husband.
Counsellors affirm that many of these marriages do not last. They are driven by the love of money and desperation for sex by women whose choices are limited. In many instances, after extracting anything of value from the estate, the ‘inheritors’ are known to disappear, leaving the relative’s wife in abject poverty.
The state has a duty to protect women who are vulnerable to such archaic cultural practices. Rape by definition involves forcing a woman to have sex. Wife inheritance is rape which is dignified by the mere fact that society has been doing it for a long time. It must stop.
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