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Masculinity and male mortality in South Africa

K Ratele


Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) has estimated that in mid-2006 there were approximately 47 390 900 individuals in South Africa, 23 327 600 of whom were males and 24 063 300 females, a difference of 735 700. In the previous year, the mid-2005 estimates
had shown that the population numbered about 46.88 million people. There were nearly 747 600 fewer males than females in the population, an increase from the 612 000 of mid-2004. Besides the numerical differences between the sexes over these years, an important fact to highlight from these estimates is that there were more males than females aged 0–mid-30s, after which there was a drop in the male population. This article presents and examines when and how South African males start to disappear from the population. It suggests that the numerical differences between the sexes evident in the population figures are related to sex/gender practices, specifically risky behaviours of males, which
result in adult males dying in higher numbers than adult females. On this basis, the article finds a connection between, on the one hand, being male and, on the other, the manner and age of an individual's death, and employs the idea of ruling masculinity to discuss when and how males die.

Keywords: males, masculinity, South Africa, sex, death

African Safety Promotion Vol. 6 (2) 2008: pp. 19-41