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Male child preference… women’s agony

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REMEMBER the MTN ‘Mama na boy’ commercial. In the television commercial by the mobile telecommunication company: a man calls his mother in the village to tell her of his wife’s delivery of a baby boy. The excitement of the baby’s gender was obvious from his body language. The commercial depicted the prevalent preference of male child in the traditional Nigerian society.

The barrage of public outcry that greeted the commercial, particularly from the women rights groups and some religious organisations forced MTN to pull out the advert. They accused the mobile operator of insensitivity, placing no value on the worth of a female child.

Male child preference syndrome still bites in our societies, even among the educated and enlightened. A male child vacuum implies not having a complete family as the belief suggests in most places. When a woman is delivered of a baby, what follows felicitations is the gender of the baby. If it’s a male, more showers of compliments pour in.

The excitement that greets a young couple’s first issue with a male child has a premium attachment to it. The baby’s father gets more compliments for the bundle of joy, not minding that the wife carried the pregnancy for months until delivery, besides the labour involved.

For the family that had longed for a male child, the joy and celebration that follows the arrival of a male child knows no bound. Where the baby’s mother had anticipated a male child and the opposite happens, the expression paints her mood. For a non-male child in a family, mothers in particular are at the receiving end of this unpalatable experience.

A middle-aged woman was some time ago, abandoned by her husband at the hospital after her sixth child turned out to be female. The husband wanted a male as demonstrated by his attitude. In another instance, a mother of four sat with forlorn looks, as her world seems to be falling apart. The scan of her pregnancy revealed that she was carrying a baby girl.

That would bring the number of her children to five girls. In another town, a man married with four wives and all female children is getting married to the fifth wife in search of a male child.

Some couples have adopted a different approach to it. What becomes difficult biologically, they obtained through adoption. However, two hurdles scare people in the process; the cost and acceptability. Not everyone has the wherewithal to adopt a child. For those who can afford it, it provides the legal means to have an addition to the family.  Some kindreds don’t  accommodate such children as their own.

Our forefathers’ preference of a male child is quite understandable. Besides propagating the family lineage, they needed male warriors during war to defend their communities. They want strong hands on the farm as the size and produce from a man’s farm determines his social standing, and neither do women hunt.

The search for a male child mounts huge pressure on women that some with their education and exposure have ended in shrines and native doctors homes. Stories abound of those that became victims of fake pastors’ exploitations, many fleeced of huge amount of money. People recount stories of women sleeping with native doctors to have a male child, which wasn’t forthcoming.

The society has not helped matters with tales of unwelcoming mothers-in law, who urge  their sons to do something about the situation. In polygamous Nigeria, many women see their marriages threatened by this scenario, with the husband likely to go for a second wife or have extra marital affairs to have a male child.

For the more matured and understanding couples, all female children would never put pressure on their marriage. What matters to them are the children they can be proud of. They are content with their precious gifts from God. They see their female children as important as those with male children. Women’s role is fast changing across globe. In many climes, women are outperforming men in their domestic responsibilities and even outside the home.

Are having male children the ultimate symbol of a happy marriage? Are female child not growing up to become useful in the society? Where a male child lacks in a family, the joy in a marriage should not murder it.

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