n Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology - Exploring incest in preferential marriage among the Northern Sotho- and Swazi-speaking people in South Africa

Special Edition 2
  • ISSN : 1012-8093



One of the manifestations or forms of sexual abuse of children is that of incest. This is commonly defined as sexual contact that occurs between close family members. Despite the growing recognition in the media and some research on the prevalence of incest in South Africa there is a decided lack of scientific research on incest in this country. The occurrence of this phenomenon challenges traditional views which see the family as a safe haven for children. A further complication to the understanding of incest in South Africa is the issue of so-called 'close-cousin marriage' and what constitutes the 'close family' unit. This is a controversial topic both internationally and in South Africa. But the Constitution of South Africa, although it states that all cultural conduct must be consistent with the principles of human dignity and equality, says nothing about preferential marriages as practised by the various cultural groups in South Africa such as the North-Sotho and Swazi-speaking people. This shortcoming in the Constitution may lead to children living among such groups being vulnerable to incest, often with the consequence of the resulting incest not being reported to the authorities, particularly the police. The focus of this article is an exploratory examination of whether preferential marriage can be equated with incest.

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