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Management of Non-Marital Fertility in Two South African Communities

  • 2013
  • Journal Article
Madhavan, Sangeetha; Harrison, Abigail & Sennott, Christie

Publication Title: Culture, Health & Sexuality: An International Journal for Research, Intervention and Care

Abstract: In this analysis, we draw on qualitative data to examine the management of non-marital fertility among young women in two rural, Black communities situated in different provinces of South Africa: KwaZulu–Natal and Mpumalanga. While the two communities share a history of economic and social disadvantage and limited access to the labour market, there are, nonetheless, distinctive features that are evident in the management of non-marital fertility. We show that young women in both communities aspire to an ideal ordering of events that places finishing education before getting married and having children, but this is not easily attained. However, there are important differences in the ways young women and their families respond to union formation and childbearing that often occurs outside of a recognised union. In Hlabisa, KwaZulu–Natal, formal processes for legitimising non-marital pregnancies through union recognition are still in place whereas, in Agincourt, Mpumalanga, more emphasis is placed on securing support and paternal recognition for the child rather than on cementing the union between the young woman and her partner. We also find that the older generation in Agincourt at times views education as a threat to marriage while this is not common in Hlabisa. Our findings have important implications.


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