Original Research

Reflections on challenges of preferring the male child in an African marriage – A practical theological observation

Magezi E. Baloyi, Matsobane J. Manala
Verbum et Ecclesia | Vol 40, No 1 | a1852 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v40i1.1852 | © 2019 Magezi E. Baloyi, Matsobane J. Manala | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 12 March 2018 | Published: 14 November 2019

About the author(s)

Magezi E. Baloyi, Department of Philosophy, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa
Matsobane J. Manala, Department of Philosophy, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa

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Children are considered the crowning glory in an African marriage – the more children are conceived during the marriage, the greater the glory. There are certain expectations from family, and an African community, especially to married couples. Presumably, families pity the deaths of childless couples because they will not be remembered when they die. From an African perspective, one of the purposes of marriage is childbearing. When a child is born, it is expected from community to congratulate the couple. Among some tribes, it is considered an abomination for any member of the community to delay or refuse to congratulate the new mother. That is why monogamous marriages in which no children are born are difficult to endure. Because children are regarded as the crowning glory of a marriage, evidence shows that in some instances those who cannot bear children are regarded as abnormal and outcasts. Hence, polygamy was practised as a way of begetting children in barren marriages. It is debatable that parenthood remains a critical issue for the success of most marriages. Although childbearing is applauded, male children are given more priority than female children. It is, therefore, the intention of the researchers to argue that the birth of male children, which is celebrated more than the birth of female children, contributes to undermining one gender in favour of the other. The reader will become aware of the negative role of patriarchy. Without detracting from the joyous moment of the birth of a child in an African family, the researchers assert that it is important to celebrate the birth of children of both genders equally. This article is based on insiders’ observations and a relevant literature study.

Intradisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary implications: We raise these African cultural issues of concern to enable situation analysis efforts and stimulate the search for improvements. This article highlights the African cultural beliefs and practices relating to the preference of the boy child over the girl child. The value of this discussion is to inform people about the negative views and conduct of African cultural origin, to highlight, disapprovingly, gender inequality among some African peoples. While this is a contribution to the discussion in gender discourse, it is also a practical theological attempt to encourage equality as demanded by the Christian teaching and the South African constitution that embraces human rights. While highlighting the cultural situations, it also points out to the need for transformation; hence, the pastoral counselling recommendations towards new theoretical framework that aims at improving the situation. This contribution is, thus, a necessary multi-discipline enterprise to provide knowledge and encourage women’s self-determination.


African male child; childbearing; priority; inheritance; childlessness


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