There is a cultural practice in parts of Africa in which a young widow is required to marry her dead husband's brother, male cousin or other relation. This is sometimes referred to as wife inheritance.

The two main Christiam denominations in Uganda are the (Roman) Catholic church and the (Anglican) Church of Uganda. Do these have any objection to, or concerns about, this practice? If so, on what grounds?

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    You may wish to supply more research in your question statement. Which Christian denominations oppose women inheriting property? I am not aware of any, but if there are some, list their names so we can provide a focused answer. May 15, 2020 at 13:57
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    I don't think OP is referring to women inheriting property. The term "wife inheritance" is used to refer to a widow, on the death of her husband, being inherited by his brother or male cousin, whom she is obliged in custom, if not law, to marry if he will have her. Asalia is that what you mean? If so do you know what denomination "the church" is in the part of the world you have in mind? Is it the Catholic Church, for example?
    – davidlol
    May 15, 2020 at 16:59
  • I have dited to ask what I think asalia wants to ask. Asalia, please edit if you are intersted in a different part of the world. I notice your name is most used in Uganda.
    – davidlol
    May 16, 2020 at 6:25
  • A similar practice was known to Biblical Judaism (Deuteronomy 25:5-10). However, Christians are not bound by Jewish law (Pauline epistles). And, by extension, Christianity never imposes that a culture should accept the norms of another culture (not just the Jewish one) to become Christian. Thus, Africans are not bound to accept European norms of conduct to become Christian; indeed, they are perfectly free to follow their own, if they so desire (which is apparently what the Ugandan are doing). However, just as no one imposed anything on them, so can they too cannot impose anything on anyone.
    – user46876
    May 16, 2020 at 12:21
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    @Lucian You make a strong case and may be right. But two factors make me wonder. First both the RCC and CofE have kinship laws forbidding certain marriages. Secondly there is the question of consent. What if the widow does not want to marry her brother-in-law, we then get into the area of forced marriage.
    – davidlol
    May 17, 2020 at 9:22

1 Answer 1


The Catholic church holds that the parties to a marriage must freely consent to it.

From the Catechism:

1625 The parties to a marriage covenant are a baptized man and woman, free to contract marriage, who freely express their consent; "to be free" means:

  • not being under constraint;

  • not impeded by any natural or ecclesiastical law.

1626 The Church holds the exchange of consent between the spouses to be the indispensable element that "makes the marriage." If consent is lacking there is no marriage.

Much more specific detail follows.

So any marriage that is forced on one of the parties, either the widow or the husband's brother in the example, is invalid. A marriage such as described that is entered into freely by both parties is valid.

I'm fairly certain that the Anglican church takes the same view.

  • It might be worth noting the similar, but reversed, situations of Genesis 38:8—10 and Deuteronomy 25:5—10. In the first, it is the husband that is required to conceive a child with the widow. In the second, Onan is killed by God for not performing this duty. Jan 13, 2021 at 17:53

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