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AIDS Stripping Widows of Their Rights
  Inter Press Service; CDC Prevention News
Aug 31, 2004
Bayano Valy
Mozambican health officials say some 97,000 people will die of HIV/AIDS in the nation just this year. When Albertina Come's husband died recently, her husband's family blamed her for his death and deprived her of any inheritance. "They locked me out of the house, and took all our belongings," said Come. The nongovernmental Mozambican Women Lawyers' Association (MWLA) is evaluating her case and others like it. Mozambique's HIV/AIDS anti-discrimination laws apply only to workplaces.
MWLA has recently seen many such cases. Most "were referred to us by [Doctors Without Borders] and 80 percent of them regard women," said Orlanda Lampiao, MWLA's general secretary. All the cases concern the denial of inheritance to women because of suspicion the wife infected the husband, she said.
"The relatives of the deceased don't accept sharing the assets because it's assumed that the woman passed the virus to the man. And what worsens the situation is that sometimes the children are rejected," said Lampiao. "Many women are expelled from their houses and have no right to compensation."
Mozambique's Family Law requires that a widow must have been legally married to inherit the estate; it has only recently been changed to give women inheritance and alimony rights when the couple has lived together for a year in a "de facto union" but never officially married. The law will be published in the official gazette and go into effect next year. However, many women are ignorant of their rights and live in rural areas, and up to 71.2 percent are illiterate, said Sansao Busque, of the Women and Social Welfare department. The laws must be disseminated in local languages, he said.
Many women in the 13-nation Southern African Development Community are overburdened by raising children, according to a 2004 UNAIDS report. Because of HIV/AIDS, orphans are also likely to live in female-and grandmother-headed households.

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