Widowhood rituals, African Lutherans and HIV prevention : a gendered study of the experiences of widows in the Kamwala Evangelical Lutheran Church in Zambia.
African widows experience physical, emotional and spiritual traumas induced by cultural/psycho-social factors, which are further exacerbated by environmental and socioeconomic determinants. These circumstances make both the mourning process and its aftermath - coping with life after the death of their spouses - extremely difficult. Oppressive cultural practices and perceptions can aggravate or intensify the suffering for many of these women. Certain rituals expose women to possible HIV infection, and in the case of Christian widows, are also incompatible with their faith. Compounding this is the cultural stigma attached to widowhood, and the added possibility of the AIDS stigma whether or not her husband did indeed die of HIV and AIDS. This dissertation examines the experiences of Christian widows from multicultural and multi ethnic backgrounds and proposes the way in which the Church can respond, given a context of African cultural practices and HIV prevention initiatives. It responds to the question of the implications of the transition into and the state of widowhood in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Zambia. This is a church operating in an environment where African cultural practices are esteemed, and some widowhood cultural practices have turned out to be risky in a context of HIV and AIDS. Chapter 1 introduces the study giving the background to and motivation for the study. It discuses the feminization of HIV and AIDS in Zambia, and that situation in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Zambia which gave the impetus to undertake the study. It also elaborates on the methodology used to conduct this research. Chapter 2 reviews the literature on related research that has already been done on widowhood, showing the reason to study a subject that has received so much attention. It also shows how strands of African Christianity have contextualized the gospel in Africa. Chapter 3 describes Lutheran theology on widowhood and the theology that Lutheranism has developed from Luther's views on widowhood. Chapter 4 describes the methods used in collecting data from the sampled interviewees and informants. Chapter 5 presents the results of the research and these are interpreted in Chapter 6. Chapter 7 presents a proposed Christianized cleansing ritual, giving justification and the procedure for the ritual.
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