Consensual Unions in Burkina Faso: Trends and Determinants

Thomas K. LeGrand, Zourkaleini Younoussi


This paper examines entry into consensual unions versus marriages in Burkina
Faso, a topic that has received little attention to date in sub-Saharan Africa.
Changes in marriage behaviors may entail or reflect profound changes in family organization, gender relations and fertility and, to the extent that consensual unions are relatively transitory and lead to more sexual partners, they may be associated with greater sexual risks including HIV. The determinants of new unions being consensual are estimated from national family-life type survey data that provide information on the timing of different types of marriages and the start of cohabitation. While consensual unions are not new to the country, they appear to be changing in nature and have been growing more common over time especially in urban areas. They are also more popular among men and women with greater schooling or who began cohabiting while living outside the country, and for women who have previously lived in union.

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