Original Research

When culture clashes with individual human rights: A practical theological reflection on the dignity of widows

Gift T. Baloyi
Verbum et Ecclesia | Vol 38, No 1 | a1599 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v38i1.1599 | © 2017 Gift T. Baloyi | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 24 February 2016 | Published: 31 March 2017

About the author(s)

Gift T. Baloyi, Department of Philosophy, Systematic and Practical Theology, University of South Africa, South Africa


This article discusses the nature of human beings (men and women) as an egalitarian one even beyond cultural expectations. It argues against some cultural practices on women, especially widows, which claim supremacy and bind the widows to its ritual processes among the Tsonga people. It stresses the importance of human individual that overtakes everything from God’s creation, including cultural rituals which are created by human beings. It claims that the existence of culture depends solely on the existence or presence of human beings and their communities. Therefore, culture cannot use humans to shape itself and to transform the community. It is humans themselves who use culture to identify themselves and ultimately change their communities. Although the paper is theological in its approach, it argues for individual human rights to be respected and weighed above all cultural practices. It further concludes that such cultural practices are not static and that they can be removed from the rest of culture.

Intradisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary implications: This article, from a practical theological view, challenges the African cultural rituals that claim authority over women’s rights and dignity. The interdisciplinary nature of this article indicates the sanctity of human individuals especially widows and thereby calls for paradigm shift to deconstruct certain oppressive teachings and practices against widows among African women. This article concludes thus, cultural deconstruction is possible.


Practical Theology; widows


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