Once women get married they live in their husbands’ homesteads. Thereafter, married women are expected to build strong relationships between their family members and those of her husband. It is the women’s responsibility to nurture a warm and mutual relationship among all the in-laws. It is expected that married women will bear children for their husbands’ lineage (Southall, 1952). The more the wife bears more children the more she enhances her influence in the lineage of her husband. These children later take care of their interests.
As indicated earlier, men pay the bridal dowry which allows women to maintain ties with their loved ones throughout their lives (Southall, 1952). Polygamy is also acceptable in the Luo culture so long as traditional practices and regulations are adhered to, for instance, a special recognition of the first wife (Mboya, 1986). Normally, the husband has to separate the wives where the first wife’s house and granary are constructed behind the homestead opposite the main gate (Mboya, 1986).
The rest of the wives’ houses and granaries are positioned to the right and left sides from the first wives’ premises and in the order of their marriage (Mboya, 1986). The same case applies to the sons who are given homes adjacent to the main entrance of the compound and in the order of their birth (Southall, 1952). The husband builds himself a house at the center of the compound (Southall, 1952). Luo culture believes that once the dowry has been paid in full and that the spouses have born children, divorce can no longer take place. Even if the two separate they are still considered to be married.
In case the wife does not bear children, the husband can divorce her or replace her with another wife. The wife receives the blame in cases of infertility. Young girls are expected to help their mothers and their mothers’ co-wives in tilling the land owned by their fathers, brothers and paternal uncles (Ocholla, 1980). It does not matter whether the girl gets to school and attains good education she still has to help in tilling the land. On the other hand, boys and youthful men spend more time with livestock and engage in lots of social labor (Ocholla, 1980). Biocultural Ecology
Luo community, just like many other communities in Kenya, consists of black people with strong physical structure. Malaria is considered to be a major killer in Luo culture. Moreover, kwashiorkor which derives from lack of enough proteins in the body, affects most children (Themes in Kenyan History, 1990). Most families do not afford to prepare a balanced diet neither do they have knowledge about nutrition and health standards (Themes in Kenyan History, 1990). In villages, preventive medicine is preferred and in fact most communities in the rural settings have clinics with medical workers.
The medical workers try the best they can to help the communities maintain good sanitation, nutrition, prenatal care including other practices that can help reduce the risk of diseases (Themes in Kenyan History, 1990). Luo culture faces great challenges from HIV/Aids pandemic which has left many children orphans. Relatives to bereaved children adopt them with the hope that the enormity of HIV crisis will come to an end (IPAR, 2004)). It is however believed that the rate of HIV infection is very high in Luo Culture.
Moreover, it suffers from food shortages and records the highest rates of infant mortality in Kenya (IPAR, 2004). It does not have good facilities for clean water supply a situation that has led many residents succumb to water-borne diseases, for instance, typhoid fever, amoebic dysentery and common dysentery including diarrhea (IPAR, 2004). Most girls suffer from teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases (IPAR, 2004). As indicated earlier, Luo culture faces great challenges from HIV infections. This has been attributed to irresponsible sexual behavior among the youths.
As such, Luo culture does not value male circumcision instead they remove their young men six front teeth both from the upper jaw and the lower jaw. Unfortunately, this right of passage does not meet dental health standards since it is done manually and in a very rough way (Stein, 1985). Wife inheritance is another strange cultural practice whereby a widow is remarried by the deceased’s brother who must meet all her marital requirements, for instance, conjugal rights. According to Luo culture, adolescent period should prepare a girl for marriage and family life.
In the traditional settings, girls obtain tattoos on their backs and having their ears pierced as well. The unfortunate thing is that the materials used to carry out these practices are never sterilized (Stein, 1985). Girls come together among peer groups where they get to share their sexuality, for instance, discussing boys and their personal attributes. On the same note, older women provide sex education to the teenage girls. Lovers secretly meet near these huts although pregnancy outside marriage is strictly prohibited (Southall, 1952).