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Research Articles (Gender Studies)

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    Alternative rituals of widow cleansing in relation to women’s sexual rights in Zambia.
    (2016) Saguti, Edward.; Muthuki, Janet Muthoni.
    One cannot understand the alternative rituals of widow cleansing without having a full understanding of the ritual of widow cleansing itself. Widow cleansing is a ritual which demands a widow to have sexual intercourse with another man, normally one of her brothers-in-law in order to let the spirit of the deceased rest in peace among the dead. The rationale behind this ritual is the belief that the spirit of the deceased husband still recognizes the widow as his wife, hence interfering with any relationship the widow might establish. The ritual of widow cleansing was however challenged by various groups especially at the dawn of the HIV and AIDS pandemic. Through increased awareness about the HIV and AIDS malady and its widespread effects on human health, communities in Zambia have adopted alternative cleansing rituals to cleanse widows without the act of sexual intercourse. While many scholars have hailed the alternative rituals to the extent of encouraging them, the question about women’s sexual rights seem to have been ignored. Studies have shown that although the alternative rituals do not involve sexual contact, some of them are done in a manner that comprise the sexual rights of women. The disregards for and of women’s sexual rights causes the marginalization and denial of their social, political and economic rights. This thesis explores the alternative rituals of widow cleansing in relation to women’s sexual rights in Zambia. In this light, the study draws attention to the fact that women in Zambia are born and nurtured in the context of African culture and as such possess rights to live in a society that does not oppress or discriminate against them. Thus, it asserts that the government and citizens of Zambia have an obligation to make sure that women are not subjected to any traditional practices that undermine their sexual rights. However, the study recognizes that despite the presence of laws and legal structures aimed to protect the rights of women in Zambia, their lack of implementation especially in rural areas continue to be a challenge to women’s rights. Besides this, the study notes that since cleansing rituals have been practiced for a long time in Zambia and are embedded in the cultures of people, they cannot just be addressed through legislation. The most suitable way of addressing such practice is through education, negotiation and dialogue. This strategy for redress as proposed by this study is rationalized on the basis that negotiation comprises the process of compromise, which is give and take, and is inclusive of the local people in the dialogues and context of problem solving and the practice of cleansing rituals that contravenes the rights of women. Likewise, negotiation gives room to cultural transformation where men and women can live in communities free of practices that are not life-giving to women.
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    Indian women in marriage: When the sacred marriage thread becomes a noose.
    (Taylor & Francis (Routledge)/UNISA Press., 2011) Naidu, Uma Maheshvari.
    Violence against women is a worldwide problem that transcends all boundaries – cultural, geographic, religious, social and economic. However, it is maintained that there are also added particular cultural ‘dynamics’ or constraints inherent in specific cultural groups. This focus attempts to sketch out the features of a category of Indian women who are assumed as being compelled by particular systemic cultural constraints or familial pressures to ‘play the dutiful wife’ at the expense of enduring sustained emotional and physical trauma. While there is extensive, even sensational reporting of violence within Indian families and against Indian wives in (predominantly Indian) tabloids, there is conversely less scholarly attention on this category of women and the dynamics and conflicts within Indian households. This piece focuses a narrow scrutiny on the Indian wife within abusive marriages. It looks at what is referred to as ‘culturally systemic’ violence and a certain commonality of marital discord and abuse experienced by Indian wives who live in extended families, and pays attention to the presence of the mother-in-law within the living arrangement.
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    Enacting masculinities: Pleasure to men and violence to women.
    (Taylor & Francis (Routledge)/UNISA Press., 2013-05-02) Naidu, Uma Maheshvari.; Ngqila, Kholekile Hazel.
    Feminist anthropologists have shown how women’s bodies have been appropriated and rendered ‘docile’ by so called cultural or traditional practices, as well as by discourse. The compelled docility of African women (as that of other women in the global south), is perhaps especially visible within subtly coerced performances within a context of ‘traditional’ masculinised practices, such as unprotected sex, that leave many African women vulnerable and forced to negotiate a host of health concerns around sexually transmitted diseases and of course HIV/AIDS. This is to be seen as a form of violence perpetrated by men against their female partners. However, in probing condom use through a qualitative study with a small group of women, we notice that it is not simply a case of discerning patterns of hegemonic masculinities in relation to condom use or non-use, and that masculinities are also propped up and held together by the relational configurations of practice formed by (mutual) gender relations.
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    Wrestling with standpoint theory… some thoughts on standpoint and African feminism.
    (Taylor & Francis (Routledge)/UNISA Press., 2010) Naidu, Uma Maheshvari.
    This essay attempts to probe the theory of standpoint feminism, and the charge of epistemic privilege associated with the theory. Standpoint theory itself can be seen to have emerged in the context of feminist critical theory attempting to explain the relationship between the production of knowledge and practices of power (Harding, 2004: 1). The essay attempts to probe the efficacy of a standpoint epistemic within the framework of the various asymmetries embedded in the lived experiences of women in African contexts. The essay works through the notion of ‘entanglement’ (Nuttall, 2009) which refers to the meshed and particular historical connections of an individual or group. It explores, through ethnographic insights, whether standpoint epistemology is able to offer a theoretical understanding of Black African women who are likewise ‘entangled’ within a particular archive of local socio-cultural and economic specificities.
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    ‘Topless’ tradition for tourists: Young Zulu girls in tourism.
    (Taylor & Francis (Routledge)/Unisa Press., 2009) Naidu, Uma Maheshvari.
    This study works through the ethnographic narratives of two young girls who perform in a tourist cultural village, and probes how certain cultural constructions of ‘Zulu girl’ or maiden are enacted in the context of cultural tourism. The article demonstrates that the girls live with a certain level of cultural discordance between their own experiences as young Zulu-speaking girls and how they are positioned in tourism consumption as 'Zulu maidens'. The study situates the narratives of the two performers, Zodwa and Pumi [pseudonyms] alongside the perceptions of a group of Zulu-speaking girls as an outside audience and how they see the dancers.