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The moral values of African cultures advise women not to expose their pregnancy

12.12.2018
Most parents during the pre-modern era commonly engaged in the practice of hiding the news of their daughter’s pregnancy. Though in some cases this practice is common when unmarried teenage girls get pregnant, in other cases some families will consider this one of the rituals to be performed so as to safeguard the pregnancy. African culture is made up of very strong moral considerations and decisions by families to keep pregnancies sacred deeply relied on these moral principles.

Most African cultures give so much importance to pregnancy and child birth because it is considered as the reproduction of future generations. In the past customs related to child birth were very firm and sacred. For example, the Samburu tribe of Kenya demands that the bride returns to her parents after she gets pregnant and live with them for some years because it is considered that she has committed an error and so cannot see or speak with her husband.

Meanwhile with the San people of Southern Africa who live in the Kalahari Desert, when a woman gives birth she earns status and social recognition. When couples are newly married, the both families would wait with anxiety the news of her pregnancy. However, the she is confirmed pregnant, each family would treat the news differently.

While others would be quick to leap with joy and celebrate the coming of a newborn others would prefer to hide the news until the baby is born. This is also very common when an unmarried girl gets pregnant.

UNDERSTANDING WHY AFRICANS HIDE PREGNANCY

Generally some tradition impose that a woman should unveil the news of her pregnancy after she is 12-week into the pregnancy. However, several cultures believed that a pregnant woman is weak and vulnerable and should be protected even though superstition is in most cases the primary reason for such action. In scenarios where a woman is married, her family could voluntarily decide to keep the news of her pregnancy to shield her from witches or ill-intentioned members of the family or community.

It is often seen as a protective measure to keep the mother and daughter save. In cases like this, she is prohibited from public places until her pregnancy comes to term.

But this is in very rare cases as the majority of hidden pregnancies is linked to teenage and ‘unwanted’ pregnancies. In this situation, the birth of a baby, which should be a joyful occasion often leads to heartbreak and agony for African families and they turn to protect their daughters from public shame and stigma linked to teenage pregnancies.

Most traditions regards falling pregnant out of wedlock is taboo and women face social scrutiny. These customs value virginity and any woman who loses hers is not regarded as a “marriage material”. Due to these high standards set by society sometimes parents whose daughters get pregnant are unable to beat the brunt of social critics not only for their daughters but to the entire family as well. In most cases, the daughters will be sent off to live with distant relatives until she gives birth just so as to save the family name.

However, with the rapid globalization and introduction of western standards, some of these beliefs are fast fading out. Families are becoming more and more supportive to their children no matter the circumstances surrounding their pregnancy. And again we today witness Africans throwing baby showers to celebrate their pregnancies even before the baby is born.

AFRIC Editorial Article.

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