Women, marriage and domestic arrangements in rural KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Authors Victoria Hosegood

ISSN: 1996-2088
Affiliations: School of Social Sciences, University of Southampton, UK; Africa Centre for Health and Population Studies/University of KwaZulu-Natal, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Source: Acta Juridica, 2013, p. 143 – 168


This paper contributes a demographic perspective to this collection of articles. The author asks an overarching question ‘Can the collection and analysis of detailed demographic data in household surveys and surveillance systems inform understanding of the context and impact of judico-legal process and reform of marriage and land ownership?’ The paper starts with a brief introduction to the context of marriage in rural KwaZulu-Natal, a discussion of conceptual and methodological issues related to the collection and interpretation of marriage data in South African household-based censuses, surveys and demographic surveillance. The third and fourth sections describe the Africa Centre demographic surveillance system in rural KwaZulu-Natal, and examine the demographic measures and categorisations of the study population in 2009. The findings show that marriage rates — already low in the early 2000s — have continued to decline such that by 2009, 10 per cent of women aged 20 to 45 years were currently married and the majority of women in their late 40s had never been married. While available data on women’s ownership of land are limited in this source, male and female-headed households are similar with respect to whether registered ownership or permission to occupy is held by a member within rather than outside the household. That most named ‘owners’ may be men, may mask an increasing acceptance on the part of communities and families that women need to be assisted in securing access to land and housing; particularly women with children or responsibilities towards other children and adults. Efforts to ensure greater access and legal protection for rural women in relation to housing can be enhanced by encouraging household and population-based surveillance and surveys to include data about land and housing routinely.