Single motherhood In Maghrebian society : inventory of data

Anne Le Bris, Institut National d'Études Démographiques (INED)

Sexuality is one of the hardest subjects to bring up in the Maghreb, especially within local households. It is usually inappropriate to mention sexual practises - let alone premarital intercourse - especially within the family framework, one of the main place of socialization. Family is the basic unit of the Maghrebian society and getting married is the only way to legitimate sexual practises. Since the 70’s, matrimonial behaviors have deeply changed with a spectacular rise of age of the first marriage : now close to the age of 30 for women. There is a growing discrepancy between the prevailing speech which assimilates any premarital sex act to prostitution and the practices of the younger generations confronted to the lengthening of single life but evolving in mixed places and acculturated with permissive foreign manners. Faced with a pregnancy out of wedlock, single girls are driven back with different strategies according their resources and their network. Young women who are victims of family exclusion will have to apply to caritative and governmental institutions. These unmarried mothers represent the visible part of premarital sexuality. Some governmental and associative investigations drew the profile-type of these single mothers. Their situations are those of extreme precariousness. Consequences for their children are obviously dramatic. This communication aims to identify, through a census of the existing data, the profiles of unmarried mothers across the maghrebian society. This data can not help us to specify the extent of the phenomenon but it will allow us to locate the objective social conditions as well as the individual courses which contribute and feed these this facto situations. In parallel, it will be interesting to understand how the study of these single-mothers reveals taboos, crispations in the Maghrebian society which is undergoing in a demographic changes and socio-political crisis.

Presented in Session 96: Socio-Cultural Context of Reproductive Health(2)