This special issue of Agenda seeks to explore the gendered dynamics of contemporary marital relationships. In the context of major social and sexual transformations, we are interested in how men and women relate, experience and navigate intimate life, sex, economic subsistence and reproduction.

In trying to liberate the marriage institution from its patriarchal content and the heteronormative building blocks that uphold it, authors in this issue critique the marriage institution by providing answers to the following question: Is marriage a risky business or a safe haven? They reflect on change and transformation in their experiences of marriage or outside of it.

Topics and issues covered include the differing ritual advice (‘go laya’ in Setswana) given to brides and grooms in traditional marriages in Botswana, same-sex marriages in Cape Town, child and forced marriage as harmful traditional and cultural practices which continue to violate the rights of the girl children in the Southern African Development Community region, continued ‘discarding’ of a wife by the courts when they declare the marriage of a second or later wife in a dual (polygamous) marriage void where the husband failed to adhere to legal provisions when entering into the subsequent marriage while already married, women’s experiences of intimate partner violence enacted by their husbands within marriage, and the experiences of seven black South African women in polygynous marriages.

The accompanying podcast contains the real life experience of a Muslim woman who lives in one of South Africa’s urban centres, and two academics who are based at the University of KwaZulu Natal.

FURTHER READINGS