Academic journal article Journal of Social Development in Africa

Determinants of Age at First Marriage in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Comparative Study of Uganda and South Africa

Academic journal article Journal of Social Development in Africa

Determinants of Age at First Marriage in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Comparative Study of Uganda and South Africa

Article excerpt

Abstract

Marriage has traditionally been early and universal in sub-Saharan Africa and this has been blamed for high fertility and the failure to achieve most MDGs including the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, achieving the goal of universal priman> education, promotion of gender equality and empowerment of women, reduction of childhood mortality, improvement in quality of maternal health, and combating HIV and AIDS and other diseases. The paper used the 2006 Uganda Demographic and Health Survey and the 2003 South African Demographic and Health Survey data to investigate the hypothesis that ethnicity has a significant effect on age atfirst marriage even after controlling for the effects of other socio-demographic covariates. The Cox proportional hazard model was used to analyze the data. The study found that the Median Age at First Marriage (MAFM) was 19 years in Uganda and 29 years in South Africa, and that ethnicity had a significant effect on age at first marriage in both countries. Other factors with significant effects, through which ethnicity may have influenced age at first marriage were region, level of education and age at sexual debut. The paper concludes that marriage is early and universal in Uganda, while it is delayed in South Africa, suggesting that the two countries belong to different nuptuality regimes, this is arising from apparent differences in education and empowerment of women.

Keywords:

Age, marriage, nuptuality, Uganda, South Africa, ethnicity

Introduction

In sub-Saharan African societies, marriage has traditionally been early and universal (van de Walle, 1968; Lesthaeghe, 1989). Early marriage was culturally encouraged because of the disapproval of premarital sex and childbearing (Kalule-Sabiti, Palamuleni & Makiwane, 2007). However, the practice is increasingly getting into conflict with emerging legal, health and social values (International Planned Parenthood Federation, 2006) and as a result, differences between countries and cultures have emerged influenced by varying socioeconomic conditions. For example, in all cultural groups in Uganda marriage has continued to be early and universal (Tumwine, 2007) while in South Africa marriage is delayed, marriage dissolution is on the rise, and marriage rates have declined in all cultures (Kalule-Sabiti et al., 2007).

Marriage is one of the proximate determinants of fertility because it increases the chances of sexual intercourse and the risk of pregnancy in the absence of contraception (Bongaarts & Potter, 1983). Early marriage has been blamed for the high fertility in many sub-Saharan African societies (Gould & Brown, 1996). Women who marry young, start childbearing early and in the absence of fertility regulation, have high fertility (Khan et al., 2008; Campbell et al., 2006; Blanc, 2001). Several previous studies have also recognized the effect of age at first marriage on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that are associated with fertility including maternal health and mortality, childhood health and mortality and HIV/ AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections (Carmichael, 2011; Palamunleni, 2011; Gebreselassie, 2011; Green et al., 2009; Ikamari, 2005; Green & Merrick, 2005). Other MDGs that are associated with fertility are eradication of extreme poverty and hunger; and promotion of gender equality and empowerment of women. Uganda and South Africa are almost on the opposite sides in terms of the likelihood of achieving the MDGs, with Uganda being more unlikely, partly because of the effects of young age at marriage.

Previous studies have identified pervasive discrimination exacerbated by culture as the leading cause of early age at marriage. Most cultures in sub - S aharan Africa restrict the social and economic space of women by denying them access to education (Yabiku, 2005; Kaufman &Meeakers, 1998; Jejeebhoy, 1995). Women who have no or low education marry young, start childbearing at a young age and do so for a long period, leading to high fertility (Gebremedhin&Batre, 2009). …

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