Journal of African Law

Research Article

Marriage and Extra-Marital Sexuality: The Dialectics of Legal Change among the Kgatla

John L. Comaroff and Simon Roberts

In paying tribute to the pioneering work of Isaac Schapera on Tswana law we return to one of his earliest and possibly least quoted studies, “Premarital Pregnancy and Native Opinion: A Note on Social Change-”, and explore the recent transformations which have characterised the perception and management of extra-marital sexuality among the Kgatla. We shall suggest that these transformations are the product of a wider process: namely, the spread of monogamy within a society organised in terms of the assumption of polygyny. In doing so we shall seek to demonstrate that the analysis of one substantive problem in the field of legal anthropology may illuminate a number of fundamental social principles.