Anthropological Study of Factors Affecting the Construction of Sexuality in Ghana

Author: Bratton, Angela R.
This study explores the formation of gender identity and the sexual practices of teens
in Kumasi, Ghana within the context of the growing emphasis on formal schooling.
Direct interviews with students, teachers and members of the community offer a rich
variety of data that allows for important conclusions about shifting conceptions of
family, education, production and reproduction.


“Bratton’s research will be well received among scholars of education, gender, global health, kinship, anthropology, and African Studies. . . .she employs theoretical frames astutely and persuasively, weaving her theoretical insights throughout the data. In short, this is a welcome work.”

­-Prof. Kelly Askew
University of Michigan

“. . . a sound and useful contribution to anthropological scholarship on education in Africa. Bratton’s research question ‘how do school-educated Asante youth living around Kumasi, Ghana think about sex and sexuality’--is both timely and timeless."

-Prof. Amy Stambach
University of Wisconsin-Madison

From the Foreword
"The overarching focus of this study, teen pregnancy, is a prominent public issue in Ghana as in the |USA, and it clearly resonates strongly along both traditional and modern dimensions. The teenager was obviously an imported Western category, but gains legitimacy from its global glamour and also from its overlap with the locally significant category of young man. Ideals of modern self-discipline, Christian abstinence and national development all join in condemning the teen mother. Paradoxically, her image warns just as effectively against the negative consequences of backwardness as against the danger of acting too modern.
Asante communities historically celebrated a girl’s physical and social maturity in an elaborate public ceremony marking her first menstruation. In the 19th century this event typically occurred in her later teen years, and marriage shortly followed it. Pregnancy before the ceremony was virtually a crime against nature, and both partners were punished severely with ritual humiliation and exile. As in many other parts of the world, puberty now comes in the earliest teen years, while aspirations for further education require delaying marriage and parenthood for many years. The disturbing numbers of younger mothers can then be blamed with equal plausibility on the breakdown of traditional penalties for childbirth before social adulthood or on the persistence of traditional expectations of girls’ marriage soon after puberty."

-Prof. Gracia Clark
Indiana University

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Introduction
African Notions About Power
Crafting Gender Getting From Here to There and Back Again
The Outline of the Book

Chapter 2: The Developing Importance of Schooling
Historical Development of Schooling
Asante Marriage and Family
The First Schools
Development of Technical and Secondary Schools
Impact of Schooling
Three Schools Today
Constraints to Learning

Chapter 3: Crafting Teenage and Youth Identities
Normalization of Identity through Schooling
Liminality of Adolescence
Youth, Adolescence, Teen, or Child
Identity Through School
Discipline and Indiscipline
Challenges Teens Face

Chapter 4: Constructing Sexuality: Schooling and Sex Education
Spaces for Sexual Education
Moral Education
Home Economics
Social Studies
Interviews and Surveys

Chapter 5: Unplanned Pregnancies
PPAG Programs
Causes of Teenage Pregnancy
Statistical Context
Family Planning

Chapter 6: The Right Kind of Rites
Overview of Rites of Passage
The Ritual Debate

Chapter 7: Conclusions

Name Index
Subject Index