Inhlawulo, kin and custom: young men negotiating fatherhood and respectable masculinity

Deevia Bhana, Francesca Salvi

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


    When Zulu teenagers in the KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa have children out of wedlock, like nineteen-year-old Nkosi above, customary practices around the acknowledgement of paternity and the payment of damages (inhlawulo) are invoked.
    Inhlawulo is a customary practice whereby payment, usually offered in the form of cattle or money, is tendered by the father of the child to the mother’s family for impregnating her outside of marriage. The payment of damages is not simply a customary obligation, but has a law-like function (see comment listed at the end too) which can be used to determine whether an unmarried father has rights to his child (Children’s Act, 2005). Teenage fathers have to contend with these customs which are grounded in the high value placed on respect (inhlonipha) for elders and the high symbolic value placed on virginity as well as the customary expectations and the patriarchal legitimation surrounding the birth of a child.
    Defying customary obligations, albeit with changes, invokes traditional norms which weakens the child’s access to the father’s lineage and ancestors as well as prevents fathers’ access to their children. The acknowledgment of paternity and the payment of damages are deeply connected to masculinity and the expectation of fathers, even when young, to provide, appease and settle the fine. In this chapter, we draw from a qualitative study of teenage fathers in KwaZulu-Natal as they address the process of negotiating young fatherhood and the gendered and generational dynamics that underly this process.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationGeneration, Gender and Negotiating Custom in South Africa
    EditorsElena Moore
    Number of pages16
    ISBN (Electronic)9781003147398
    ISBN (Print)9780367706524
    Publication statusPublished - 17 Jun 2022


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