The Roman Catholic Church and contraception : exploring married African Catholic women's engagement with Humanae Vitae.
While Western women theologians and feminists have commented and written extensively about Humanae Vitae and its impact and effects on women, African women theologians and ordinary women have not sufficiently engaged with contraception and its impact on women. This study focuses on married African Catholic women’s engagement with the Catholic teaching on contraception presented in Humanae Vitae, one of the Church’s encyclicals. The study has three aims: firstly to learn the women’s understanding of Catholic teaching on contraception; secondly to find out from the women’s understanding whether the Catholic teaching on contraception addresses women’s sexual and reproductive health rights, and thirdly to understand married African Catholic women’s perceptions of gender orientation in the Catholic Church and how that affects women’s health. To explore this, the study made use of qualitative methods using two primary methods: guided reflection questions and face-to -face interviews. The participants of the study were seven married African Catholic women from seven different African nations who reside in the city of Pietermaritzburg in South Africa. The study was guided by two sexual ethics theories: African sexual ethics and Christian sexual ethics. The results of the study show that the married African Catholic women draw their understandings of the teaching largely from African sexual ethics, which has not been given adequate consideration in the encyclical Humanae Vitae. The study has also found from the married African Catholic women’s perspective, that the Catholic teaching on contraception in Humanae Vitae does not sufficiently address women’s sexual and reproductive health rights. Moreover, that Catholic women still have a long way to go to be given full recognition to participate in the Church’s decision making which make decisions on teachings such as Humanae Vitae that affect women’s health.