Inability to conceive is a scourge that causes misfortune and burden on African women. The woman being a strategic link in the procreation process attracts more attention when this mechanism of continuity of the human race doesn’t work well.
In Africa, children are seen as a sign of blessing, and the birth of a child is usually a wonderful event often surrounded by ceremonies with lots of fanfare, and also accompanied with praise and thanksgiving.
Children As The Essence Of Marriage
In many African countries, a marital union doesn’t stop at just companionship or to share the joys and the sorrows of your spouse. It is primarily to have kids. As a result, reproduction is regarded as the major goal of marriage; its very essence. When you ask a typical African man or woman the reason they want to get married, the answer would most likely be “to start a family and to bear children”.
The role subliminally assigned to women in many African culture is to be a wife and a mother. The marital union is considered as one where the wife has to bear children, and give heirs to her husband.
When Children Are Not Forthcoming
So what happens after few years of being married, and the couple is unable to bear children?
The inability of the union to produce offspring is often blamed on the woman. The society and in-laws are all quick to blame and point accusing fingers on the woman ignoring the fact that it takes two to tango. Some go as far as blaming the past promiscuous lifestyle of the woman for the delay. That she was deflowered by her husband doesn’t count for anything.
In Africa, children, especially male children are needed to continue their ancestry, and to take care of the parents when they get old. As a result, a woman who is unable to conceive and have children is not respected by her in-laws and treated like an outcast. It is easily concluded that she has lived a very bad life in the past, which had resulted in her aborting all her babies. They say she might be cursed and also accuse her of all manner of evils.
Infertility is one of the causes of dissolution of marriage in Africa places a lot of burden and psychological trauma on the woman. From being made a laughing stock and stigmatized, to the intense gaze of the “womb watchers” (the ones always checking your stomach for any sign of protrusion) to pressures and mistreats from antagonists in the form of in-laws who cannot wait to throw her things out of the house and find a new wife for their son who can “give” him children.
Reality sets in after the man marries a new wife, and the status quo still remains the same; he’s still unable to impregnate his new wife. Only then does he look inward, and start to question his fertility.
Also, the woman is mostly the one at the fore-front running from pillar to post in an attempt to find a lasting solution to the problem, and when all else fails, mental sterility and depression sets in.
Statistics has shown that the man is the sole cause of 30% of infertility related cases, and is responsible for 50% overall cases, but talking about male infertility is still like a taboo in a lot of African countries, especially the highly patriarchal ones . Fertility is equated to a man’s virility Africa, and as such, proposing that a man could be infertile is a big slap on the face; an ego killer. Even after the woman has been checked and proven to be okay medically, it usually still takes series of persuasions from the woman to the man to make him go for a medical assessment.
This prejudice against women in infertility cases is as a result of the misconception of marriage being just about having kids and starting a family. While having children is important, and shouldn’t be relegated to be the background, it shouldn’t be a deciding factor in determining what a good marriage is. People get married for a host of reasons such as companionship and helping each other fulfill purpose. Strangely, some get married and children aren’t on their to-do -list for a myriad of reasons. There are couples who have made the decision not to have kids simply because they cannot stand them.
Yes, nature has created a woman in such a way that has made her to be a major player in the procreation process, but the man also has a role to play in this process. The cause of infertility can either be from the man, the woman, or both of them. No woman should ever be castigated or take the sole blame in a union without children. Let’s stop the stigmatization.