Rural Women as Property in Zambia: The AIDS Exit

  • Jon D. Unruh
  • Emily Frank


The pervasiveness of the HIV/AIDS pandemic has had significant repercussions on customary institutions in Southern Africa. While such repercussions are usually quite negative, this chapter explores a counter-intuitive case where the responsiveness of customary law provides for enhanced land rights for AIDS widows, who are often the most discriminated against in terms of land rights. With ethnographic material gathered in Southern Zambia, this chapter describes how AIDS widows are able to use the stigma and taboo surrounding the disease to (a) exit the institution of being inherited by their deceased husband’s male kin, in order to (b) enhance land rights for women and their children.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jon D. Unruh
    • 1
  • Emily Frank
    • 2
  1. 1.McGill UniversityMontrealCanada
  2. 2.Independent ResearcherMontrealCanada

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