Some African Families Left With Nothing Because of AIDS, Inheritance Customs
The New York Times on Friday examined how the entitlement customs and HIV/AIDS prevalence in sub-Saharan Africa are "combin[ing] in a terrible synergy, robbing countless mothers and children not only of their loved ones but everything they own." Although the degree to which men control household property "varies from county to county and tribe to tribe," the "stubborn tradition" of many African cultures "automatically" entitles the husband's side of the family to claim "most, if not all," of the family's valuable property when he dies, "even if it leaves his survivors destitute," according to the Times. Widows and children are "left essentially to start over," sometimes being allowed to keep the family house, land and cooking supplies but not furniture, vehicles or other valuable belongings, the Times reports. HIV-positive widows face even greater challenges, as parents-in-law increasingly cite HIV-positive status as a reason to "confiscate" widows' homes after the death of their husbands, the Times reports. Legal advocates say that laws protecting inheritance rights of widows and children "are not enforced or are simply no match for the power of tradition" because few widows know their rights, and even fewer are able to seek legal help, according to the Times (LaFraniere, New York Times, 2/18). The complete article is available online.This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.