J.M. Jok (1999). Gender and Reproductive Suffering: The Case of Abortion in Western Dinka
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This article addresses the issue of abortion and reproductive suffering among the Dinka in an emergency relief centre called Akon and in a number of adjacent villages in south-western Sudan (hereafter, Western Dinka). It does so in the context of culturally defined gender relations and the culture of militarisation of the young male population. It looks at reproductive strategies in the light of the larger framework of gender relations and changes in behaviour resulting from the conditioning of young males to violence which limits the options available to women of reproductive age as regards sexuality and reproductive decisions. I am concerned with raising not only the question do these women abide by the expectations of the husband's family to become unwillingly pregnant, and hence risk reproductive complications, maternal mortality, infertility or death from induced abortion, but also the questions how and why they might do so. What does abortion or pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility mean to them? How do they explain their choices and interpret their behaviour? Finally, what is the role of gender structures and militarism in forcing women to make such decisions, although with less awareness?