Abuse suffered by the amakhoti in the Xhosa community

Loubser, Isabe (1999-12)

Thesis (MA)--University of Stellenbosch, 1999.

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Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The issue of violence against women in South Africa is receiving much attention in both the media and in Parliament. Yet, women remain vulnerable to violence in their communities and homes. Certain cultural practices and traditional beliefs in black communities in South Africa exacerbate this problem. Despite declarations in human rights documents and legislation such as the Domestic Violence Act of 1998, some cultural practices seem to defy condemnation. Set within a framework of socio-cultural theory, this study is aimed at exposing one such cultural practice as abusive towards women. Marriage in the Xhosa tradition is a process rather than a single event. In this study, the initiation phase through which a Xhosa woman goes when she marries, called the makhotistage, is investigated. As marriage is also a family issue rather than an individual choice, the treatment that the amakhoti receive from the entire extended family is investigated. A critical ethnographic report was compiled from the experiences of twenty women who are or were amakhoti. Firstly, abusive behaviour is categorised as physically, sexually or psychologically abusive. Other practices such as witchcraft and the paying of lobola (bride-price) are also shown to be abusive. Secondly, the social context of the makhoti phase is explored. Aspects of the social context of the abusive situation which come under scrutiny are, the choice of a partner, residential pattern of women during their time as a makhoti, and reasons for staying in the relationship. Patterns of abusive behaviour are identified as they relate to specific roleplayers in the extended family. Thirdly, the emotions experienced by the participants during their time as a makhoti as well as their coping skills are explored. The results of this study indicate that the amakhoti in the Xhosa community are exposed to extremely abusive treatment at the hands of their husbands, their own family and their in-laws, and that much of this treatment is perpetuated later on in the marriage. The study also indicates that other women in the extended family also indulge in abusive behaviour towards the makhoti, despite the fact that they shared the same fate.The study confirms that Xhosa women are purposefully kept in a position of disempowerment and subservience by cultural beliefs and practices which inhibit their personal development.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die kwessie van geweld teen vroue in Suid- Afrika geniet tans baie aandag van sowel politici as die media. Desnieteenstaande is vroue steeds kwesbaar vir geweld, veral in die gemeenskap en die huis. Bepaalde kulturele praktyke en tradisionele opvattings dra daartoe by om hierdie probleem in die swart gemeenskap in Suid-Afrika te vererger. Hoewel menseregte dokumente en wetgewing soos die Wet op Gesinsgeweld van 1998 op die oog af vroue beskerm, blyk dit dat sekere kulturele gebruike en tradisies nie as diskriminerend teenoor vroue geetiketteer word nie en dus veroordeling daarvan vryspring. In die Xhosa tradisie is 5 n huwelik n proses eerder as n enkele gebeurtenis en ook n familie aangeleentheid eerder as 'n individuele besluit. In hierdie studie word die inisiasie periode van n Xhosa vrou se huwelik (die sogenaamd makhoti fase) onder die loep geneem. Die behandeling wat die makhoti ontvang van die uitgebreide gesin word ondersoek om te bepaal of dit as misbruikend teenoor die vrou beskou kan word. 'n Kritiese etnografiese verslag is saamgestel uit die ervarings van twintig vroue wat amakhoti was of steeds is. Die behandeling wat hulle ontvang het, word gekategoriseer onder fisiese-, seksuele- en sielkundige vorms van misbruik, terwyl praktyke soos die betaal van lobola en die gebruik van toordery ook uitgewys word as misbruikend teenoor die vroue. Tweedens word die sosiale konteks van die misbruik ondersoek. Aspekte van die sosiale konteks wat bespreek word sluit in die keuse van 'n huweliksmaat, residensiele patrone van die amakhoti en die redes wat aangevoer word om in die huwelik te bly. Verder word patrone van misbruik geidentifiseer soos dit met bepaalde rolspelers in die uitgebreide gesin verband hou. In die derde instansie word verslag gegee van die emosies wat die vroue ervaar het en die sielkundige meganismes wat aangewend is om in die situasie aan te pas.Die resultate van die studie dui daarop dat die amakhoti in die Xhosa gemeenskap blootgestel word aan uiterste misbruik deur hul mans, sy uitgebreide gesin en haar eie familie. Dit blyk verder dat baie van hierdie behandeling ook in later fases van die huwelik voortgesit word. Die reslutate dui ook aan dat ander vroue in die uitgebreide gesin betrokke is by misbruik ten spyte daarvan dat dieselfde lot hulle toekom. Die studie bevestig dat kulturele praktyke en opvattings Xhosa vroue doelbewus in 'n minderwaardige en onderdanige posisie hou en daardeur persoonlike ontwikkeling strem.

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