Women in South Africa are disproportionately affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic and face challenges in exercising their human rights. The cultural practice of lobola and polygamy are assessed in terms of HIV/AIDS and human rights risk factors namely, gender inequality, gender based violence and limits to sexual autonomy. This thesis argues that in order to advance human rights in Africa, they need to be perceived as culturally legitimate, which can be obtained through processes of cultural legitimation. Cultural legitimation is operationalized by disaggregating culture into practices, beliefs and value systems. This framework is grounded and analyzed through field research with regard to lobola and polygamy in the context of South Africa’s HIV/AIDS epidemic. Data obtained through interviews and focus groups reveals that although polygamy and lobola might foster specific risk factors, broader contextual conditions account for putting individuals at risk for HIV/AIDS and human rights violations.
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Thesis advisor: Busumtwi-sam, James
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