When an Zulu woman falls pregnant out of wedlock, there are firm traditional procedures to adhere to and inhlawulo usually comes into play. Even though we evolve and modernise quickly, this is one of the many practices I have noticed many families still uphold.
The process of Inhlawulo:
Please note that I’m outlining the typical scenario, however, the exact account of events vary from family to family.
The (unmarried) woman will inform her family that she is pregnant.
Her family will expect that the father of the child be made known. Her mother and a few immediate female relatives will visit the home of the unborn child’s father to inform their family of the pregnancy. This visit is usually done very early in the morning.
Depending on the family’s beliefs, the girl with either show her tummy, breasts or have one of her family members speak, as a way of informing the father’s family of the pregnancy.
The father-to-be is then asked to acknowledge that he does in fact know the girl and that he has impregnated her.
He is perceived as having “damaged” her, because they are not married and is therefore expected to pay what is called “Inhlawulo”, as compensation for the offence.
The cost of the damages will vary between families. In some families this is expected to be a cash payment, in others a cow/goat or both.
Should the father-to-be want his child take on his surname, he is expected to pay for this. The father’s family may then perform further traditional ceremonies to welcome the child into their family once the lobola has been paid.
Preferences and customs vary across families and cultures. Personally, some of the high amounts families expect for Inhlawulo and/or lobola are unreasonable, but do I think that these are beautiful customs to uphold, as they unite families and uphold tradition.
What was your experience? Please let me know how you carried out this unique part of our culture.
Modern Zulu Mom