Title of Work

“Being a man, he overpowered me”: Men as Drivers in the Continuation of Widow Cleansing among the Luo in Kenya

Document Type


Publication/Presentation Date

October 2020


Background:The practice of sexual cleansing is a component of wife inheritance and is characterized as a ritual of transition for the widow to be an eligible wife. The Luo community believe that widows need to neutralize their cultural impurity by going through a sexual cleansing process with a family member related to the deceased.However, there is limited research on the role gender plays in the occurrence of sexual cleansing as a cultural practice that perpetuates sexual violence against widows. Purpose: The aim of this study was to explore the lived experiences of widow who have undergone sexual cleansing. Methods: 27 face-to-face in-depth interviews were conducted with widows 29 to 90 years old, who had undergone sexual cleansing. Participants resided in Siaya County in Southwest Kenya, the predominant location of the cultural practice. Data was analyzed using conventional content analysis, to gain an understanding of sexual cleansing from the perspective of widows. Results: Several themes were identified related to the role of men within the context of sexual cleansing and wife inheritance: Several main themes were identified that related to the role of men within the context of widow cleansing and inheritance: 1) Men were the predominant force for the submission and completion of the cultural practice 2) The culturally prescribed practice of sexual cleansing was defined as rape by widows 3) Physical strength, social status, and power are employed to fulfill the cultural practice . This finding will be explored and the recommendations for further research will be addressed.

This document is currently not available here.