Socially Inappropriate Motherhood

Cross-Cultural Approaches to Sexual Violence Related Pregnancies (SVRP)


  • Sydney Dawson University of Western Ontario


Motherhood and childbearing are experiences that often receive great cultural prestige and celebration, a consequence related to their close associations with gender roles and life milestones, as well as their social function in generational continuation and population growth. However, external forces such as the community and the state have often overlooked power over the construction of socially acceptable forms of reproduction. One form that offers unique insight into social constructions of acceptable motherhood and pregnancy is sexual violence related pregnancies (SVRP), which represent an intersection between stigmatization, social support, and criminality in conversations of reproductive health and choice-making. Using abortion laws as a cross-cultural lens through which to understand the policing of SVRP comparatively between America, Australia, Nicaragua, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, this review seeks to examine the relationship between state and community understandings of appropriate motherhood, sexual violence, and gendered perceptions of “good” or socially supported motherhood. Furthermore, the contentious nature of abortion debates and legislation can be utilized as a lens through which to understand which forms of motherhood and childbearing can be considered state and community sanctioned versus unsupported.

Key Words: Sexual Violence, Pregnancy, SVRP, Motherhood, Childbearing, Abortion