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Women's mourning attire under fire

By unknown | Jul 03, 2007 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Canaan Mdletshe

Canaan Mdletshe

Wearing a black mourning gown is a sign that a woman is a widow. Traditionally, women who had lost their husbands were accorded respect and dignity in the black community.

But lately, widows have become targets of abusers, robbers and rapists.

The Widows and Widowers Forum at KwaDukuza in KwaZulu-Natal have decided to put an end to this indignity.

The forum held a seminar, which culminated in its official launch, where members said widows were not happy to don a mourning gown, unless it was agreed to between her and her husband before his death, or in certain instances, the family.

Thozamile Mhlaba, 61, a widow and chairman of the gender equality committee in the Ilembe district municipality, said many people believed that widows should not have to wear the mourning garb for a year.

Mhlaba said: "This attracts people with certain motives to befriend her with the intention of getting money out of her. We feel that a year is too long because it might lead someone into temptation while still mourning."

Mhlaba said it was not right for a widower to marry after only a few months of mourning.

"Three months is not enough. It does not look good because it sometimes sends the wrong message that he might have killed his wife to marry again," she said.

The forum felt that a widow should wear a necklace and a shirt or T-shirt for her dead spouse rather than the black mourning gown.

"Traditionally, a widow would wear something for her late husband, not these fashionable outfits," said Mhlaba.

Reggie Khumalo, an expert on African culture, said black attire was a custom of white people.

"Traditionally, a black widow would wear three to four necklaces around her neck and cover her shoulders with a shawl as a sign of mourning. The fashion being followed today is a mockery," said Khumalo.

He said traditionally, African women mourned for two years.

"We cannot compromise our culture to suit people. If women feel they are being oppressed by having to mourn for a year, they might as well not mourn in the first place because this attitude degrades the culture of black people," said Khumalo.


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