Inhlawulo: When an unmarried Zulu woman falls pregnant

inhlawulo; When an unmarried Zulu woman falls pregnant

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.


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Modern Zulu Mom

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  1. Very interesting!!!! I love learning about other cultures. Where I come from it is frowned upon for an unmarried lady to fall pregnant and the families would usually do everything to hide this fact and in some instances I have seen girls taken to the village and asked to leave the baby with grandmothers and the child is said to be a sibling of the mother. Thankfully this is changing now and there is a bit more understanding/accommodation

    1. It’s always interesting to learn about other cultures – thanks for also sharing that with me. I think all cultures must have frowned upon it at some stage

  2. I just bumped into you blog, I love it.

    My experience/process was just the same, how ever before inhlawulo there was a got that had to be slaughtered ukugeza umuzi, that is only eaten by young maidens, the goat was slaughtered outside the gate.

    My son took on his father’s surname with agreement of both families and he did not have to pay to have that done.

    1. Thank you Nomfanelo! I’m glad you found me and I learnt something new from you. Glad the process was smooth

  3. I have impregnated my fiancee and even paid loblobola and planning for the wedding,fiancee family said they charge me it right for them to do so? Please I need a reply

    1. Hi Oliver, it differs from family to family. I’m not an expert on this topic, I would just suggest that you ask your family/uncles to try negotiate out of paying damages, since you have paid lobola. Start building that open communication now. Good luck and congratulations.

  4. Hi there is a lady with 2 kids she is not married and the father of the 2nd child was also expected to pay damages. How many times can u fall pregnant from different men?and should they all pay for damages?

  5. I’m all for upholding tradition, however not when it comes at a cost or compromising my integrity or beliefs. As a vegetarian i would have trouble compensating damages with an animal that is going to be slaughtered, but i would also have trouble with just offering money nonetheless. I see it as a form of extortion. yes, yes , i understand that i impregnated your daughter, SO WHAT! you’re not going to finagle money from me because of that. I find this particular custom to be quite nauseating and a serious breach of ethics.

    1. That’s an interesting perspective, I actually never thought of how it could impact vegetarians. Thanks for your contribution to this very interesting debate

  6. This is very interesting. I have so many questions on the topic. My husband had a child out of wedlock years ago. He never paid inhlawulo then. The family is now insisting that he pays, which we don’t have a problem with. In a case like this, whose cultural practice takes precedence? that of the baby-mama or that of the father of the child?

  7. If i may ask, in a case whereby a woman is impregnated by the married man n the woman was already having a child, does a married man pays for damages and again what is expected from this married man to be done as culture is concern?

  8. Damages are paid once only. That’s why the firSt pregnancy has two cows and a goat. The other pregnancies are one cow only. The cow that comes with the damages cow is slaughtered outside the homestead cos ngamanyala. Whoever passes by takes a piece of that. The goat is slaughtered to cleanse the virgins. If you impregnate after paying lobelia before the wedding, you pay. This motivates the mkhwenyana to hasten to take his fiance home in a form of wedding her.

    1. Hey Sibu
      The second cow, when is it slaughtered?
      And if a girl is not a virgin n her first pregnancy is a miscarriage. How does this nhlawulo thing works?
      Feedback will be greatly appreciated.

  9. Hy got a problem I am a nguni /numbered married to different tribe now my problem is my inlawz paid kangaziwe n svulamlomo(introduction fee) the inlaws are saying according to their culture for the lobola I must give birth St n on my tribe it’s a taboo can’t do dat please help I am caught in between what am asking myself is what if their son is the 1who has a problem
    What’s gonna happen to my marriage

  10. hi can i ask if u have second child defferent father the first child they didnt pay inhlawulo and the second father want to pay it…it wont be any problem?

  11. hey can I ask Im pregnant for the second time same father but my baby father didn’t pay inhlawulo for the 1st child so must he pay inhlawulo for both of the kids? ?

  12. Hey. Our process is pretty much the same. I’m a tswana girl who was impregnated by a Zulu guy. He paid damages, our daughter uses his surname but he didn’t pay for that. We weren’t aware that he had to, lol. No regrets though.

  13. Hi wt if a family brings a born child and wants u to pay damages bare in mind you have to bring the girl while she is pregnant how do.u deal which such case

  14. Hi,I’m a sotho girl who got impregnated by a zulu man. The mother of my boyfriend is the one who first noticed that I was pregnant since I was temporarily living with them. My question is,since my boyfriend’s mom and his family knew about the pregnancy and saw it,was it still necessary for my mother to do go and alert them of the pregnancy?

    1. Hi Thato, that decision is usually made by the elders and differs from family to family. You may still be required to do so if that is what your family requires.

  15. Dear ModernZuluMom
    I am a mother of a 20yr old girl who got pregnant in 2016. We took the girl to the boys homestead. The father whos wife passes away promises to bring his son to my house so that the families can dicuss the matter. But since then they never said a word. The girl was ill and admitted in ICU for a week and could not write her matric exams. She had C-section delivery that cost a lot of money at a private hospital. Up to date nothing has been heard drom the boys family. They want the child to take their surname through telephonic converstion with the girl.
    What must we do to get the damages and expences we carried due to this pregnancy?

  16. hi.I impregnated my girlfriend, I’m from zim and she is SAcan, and her family came and notified my uncles and a date was set for inhlawulo. but now my uncle is insisting that on the day we go to pay inhlawulo we must also go with part of ilobola.I’m willing to go pay inhlawulo for now but proceed with lobolo at a later stage due to financial I required to pay lobolo the day we go to pay inhlawulo?

  17. Hi. What is the procedure isisu si ka bikwanga because of uku kipita and the baby daddy and his parents passed on and now the child’s family on the mothers side are demanding inhlaulo for a child that they didn’t bring upbecause the baby daddy mother bright up the child at the baby daddy’s house. Minding that even the parents of the baby mama passed on. Now her family are demanding a lot of money.

    1. Hyde…you can just ask em to lobular once than hlawule than baby daddy lobular once and inhlawulo was never charged.

  18. Iam a widow of 3years boy,then I meet a marriedguy.they don’t have any kids in their marriage,so it happened that we sleep together then I fall pregnant 8weeks and some days.when I ask him about his tradition,he always say they don’t have.iam confused because heis a zulu guy.please help

  19. i have 3 children my oldest daughter the inhlawulo was paid,but since my parents were dirvoced my mother was the one who received the money because i chose to stay with her after the dirvoce now my dad wants all the children to be paid for as well is this ryt,he was never even in the picture i think he has meet with them this fair on my mother

  20. This is a very critical matter and a sensible one, be that as it may be, i would vividly disagree with the man who impregnated you. i believe in zulu cultural that this custom is practiced as it is a primitive one. Maybe it is he way of dodging the consequences of his actions. Go to his home and practice your cultural custom, if then he refuse to grant you entrance, i would suggest to take other measures legally. there is maintenance court for such people not unless he is trying to deny the paternity of the child.

  21. i am a Zimbabwean guy and i impregnated a Zulu girl. I want to marry her but as informed the first process is this hlaulo. What is the possible maximum charges i am to pay??

  22. Please advise me. I have a son with this guy and my family didnt go to report to the guys family as our families live apart so now he wants us to take the child to his family so they can see the child then pay the damages but my mother insists that he must pay damages first before the child meets his family, Im soo confused please help

  23. Dear modern zuku mom
    I have a question which i really need ur perspective. So i hv a baby from another family nd now pregnant again bt not fir the same father. The first baby father payed for izintombi, ihlawulo nd wacela. So now i dnt know if it acceptable ukubika isisu okwesibili coz ngokwazi kwami sisu sesibili asibikwa nd uyahlawula kuphela bt in a way that inciphisa inkomo zelobolo. Ngeke kusafanA nokokuqala lapho kukhona ingeza muzi, ingeza msamo. If kunjalo amaFamilies ahlangana kanjani kuthi azikubo kwengane if sisu singazobikwa.

    Plz help my maternal side of a family can be very greedy i know so i would’nt like kubona kudlalwa ngabantu. They do things by judging the family so my knowledge of zulu culture practise really helps in difficult times. Thanks in advance.

    1. Hi morden zulu mom i have 3kids from 1father who already paid inhlawulo for his kids. So now i have this difficult mother who i feel she is greedy and i have informed her about the baby father he wants to pay for inhlawulo. Now since esontweni engakwazi ukuya coz unecala lokumithisa kunzima. So umama uthi ingane inhlawulo u6 cows ngoba intombazane and no uyifuna yonke. Manje inkomo njengoba ibiza 10000 iyodwa manje lomuntu sekfanele akhokhishwe 60000 haaa cha ngiyanqaba. So ngabe kumele ngenze njani and anginamuntu ongangisiza since nobaba engakaze ahlawulelemuntu kithi and i feel ugreedy nje ngoba akakaze ahlawulelwe umama but imali uyibiza njengoba injalo. Plz help

  24. Hey… i was once pregnant then had a miscarrige l, then pregnant again by the same person my mother has passed on bt my father is still available. he requested my aunt (umamkhulu) to deal with the proceedings seeing they in kzn and we in joburg….. The guys family has paid half of inhlawulo bt my aunt has split it out to his son my younger brother and grandads who wer availed during the proceedings without giving my father anything….. is it allowed???? will it put no harm to my living child???

  25. Hi guys, please help
    if I impregnate a girl and her family told me to pay 4 cows for the damage, is that realistic if I am not marrying her anytime soon??

  26. What hallens if both parents the girl die and the father of the child wants to pay the damages. Who do the give damages to?

  27. Is it fair that my sons family wAnt me to pay ilobolo for my son in order to change his surname to mine 2 cows in cash and 2 cows zoboya, wheres I did pay inhawulo,,,and the mother of my child has passed away a year ago??? Why they are so greedy?

  28. For me things were done almost the same as you have explained..the baby’s father had to pay with 2calfs(not newly born)and a goat. The part of when a child can use his father’s surname i don’t understand because my family say that paying for damages doesn’t mean the child belongs to the father’s family, it only means he acknowledges his mistake and paying the damages is a way of apologising to the woman’s family. If he wants his child to carry his name he should pay lobola for the child (not eleven cows), the lobola amount differs with families.

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