This is a story about the devaluing of women, the hold that superstition has on uneducated women and the serious consequences it causes. What’s the harm in superstition, right? Right…
One such custom, prevalent in the southern tip of the landlocked country, is “widow cleansing,” a traditional practice in which a widow is expected to have sexual relations, “in order to cleanse her,” explains White.
“There is a belief that if she does not sleep with someone, the spirit of her dead husband will come and visit upon her and her family will be cursed,” she adds.
White says that the practice is not forced upon widows. Instead, she says, the tradition has become so much part of the culture that widows themselves call for it.
“It’s a mindset issue,” says White. “Even the widows, they’ve told me, ‘I don’t want to die, I don’t want a curse to come to my husband.’ They cry to be cleansed.”
The cleansing process is unprotected sex increasing the risk of HIV. People have made this into a business. There are professional cleansers. Ben Radford writes more on how dangerous this superstition is. How Belief in Magic Spreads HIV in Africa | LiveScience.