A Critical Analysis of the Functionalist Arguments for the Levirate Custom among the Luo Community in Kenya

Abong’o Ngore Vitalis


The recent debates and campaigns against the Luo levirate custom have tended to castigate the custom and to focus mainly on its demerits and abuses. However, the custom had many important functions and has been sustained mainly by the values attached to it by the people. However, with the changed context, coupled with the wake of democratic values, the upsurge of HIV/AIDS and other existential challenges, the custom has become a controversial issue today. Arguably, it undermines the very ideals it was thought to promote. The purpose of this paper was to examine the philosophical foundations of the levirate custom among the Luo community of Kenya and precisely to give a critical assessment of the functional values attributed to the custom in the traditional Luo society. This study was based on a critical review of existing literature on the Levirate custom among the Luo in Kenya. The results indicate that the Luo levirate custom has been sustained by the functional values attached to it by the people. However, it was also revealed that the custom no longer fulfils a number of the said functions. The initial spirit, which was taking care of the widows and orphans, is still relevant today. The study further illuminates how a modification and moderation would make the custom contribute to the campaigns for the liberation of the female folk and the fight against HIV/AIDS pandemic.

Keywords: Critique, Functionalist Arguments, Levirate Custom, Luo Community, Kenya

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ISSN (Paper)2224-607X ISSN (Online)2225-0565

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