Gender, culture and sexuality : teenage pregnancy in rural KwaZulu-Natal.
Mvune, Mornica Nozipho.
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This qualitative study was conducted at Minenhle High School (pseudonym) in Mgugu, a deep rural area in Umbumbulu, KwaZulu-Natal. It explored the way in which six pregnant young women between ages of 16 and 17 talked about their pregnancies. All the young women emerged from a working class background. The purpose of this study was to investigate why these young women fell pregnant; and the gendered dimensions of pregnancy. Gender-power theory was used to show how male dominance reproduces female submissiveness and influences sexual negotiations and thus increasing vulnerability to unintended pregnancies among young African women. Focus groups and individual interviews were used to produce relevant data for this study. However, the same study finds that some young women see the need to challenge accepted gender norms which often promote and encourage female submissiveness and oppression. Socio-cultural influence emerges whereby these young women have failed to access and use contraceptives due to socially constructed myths regarding the effects of contraceptives and fear of going to the clinic to access contraceptive services since this will reveal to the parents that they (young women) are sexually active; hence viewing sex as secret and clinic as public. The findings of this study also show intergenerational silence on issues of sexuality between these pregnant young women and their parents or caregivers which encourages them to rely on their peers for support, information and advice. This study also found a decline in the value of ukuhlolwa kwezintombi (virginity testing) as a strategy for preserving young women’s virginity, discouraging unintended pregnancies and reducing the rate of HIV infections; due to socio-economic and religious reasons. Findings of this study were used to develop strategies that challenge cultural, gender power imbalances as well as breaking intergenerational silence thus encouraging a healthier and more positive sexuality among young people in Umbumbulu.