- ‘The vagina does not talk’: conception concealed or deliberately disclosed in Eastern Cameroon
- Culture, Health & Sexuality
- Volume | Issue number
- 14 | S1
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
- Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR)
In the East Province of Cameroon, respectable womanhood has long been intrinsically related to ethics of production and reproduction: women attain social standing through productive work in the fields and through the reproduction of children - preferably within a marital setting. Yet, in the face of current alternative ‘horizons of honour’ such as schooling, employment or relationships with rich urban men, women's intentions with regard to marriage and motherhood acquire different meanings. On their pathways to urban forms of honour, formal engagements and childbearing are often postponed, while premarital sexual encounters proliferate. This paper explores the meanings of pregnancy within the context of these fragile relationships and women's urban aspirations; fertility will be shown to be a ‘bet’ that may either disrupt or stabilize urban affairs and ambitions. As such, pregnancies can be strategically anticipated and deliberately disclosed or unexpectedly encountered and secretly disrupted. This paper sheds light on women's strategies of concealment and disclosure of pregnancies and shows that these practices are often inspired by a notion of the ‘right timing’ of particular reproductive conjunctures - a notion that is of increasing relevance in current frames of female honour in Cameroon.
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