Have children to please society

Posted February 26, 2011 from Ghana

It is interesting the topics that have been discussed on my two favorite local radio stations in the last three weeks – women’s secrets that their husbands should never know. Listeners called in to share their experiences anonymously. One said she was a witch, another said she had two husbands, yet another said she had HIV. These women would never tell their husbands these sides of them. By far, the most interesting cases I heard were women who “found babies for their husbands”.

In this society, a woman is expected to bear children once she is married. In fact, if a man has a few girlfriends to choose among, he is more likely to opt to marry a pregnant girlfriend than the one who is not pregnant. Some women therefore bait their boyfriends with pregnancies in order to secure marriage. On radio, one woman narrated that she lied to her boyfriend that she was pregnant in order for him to marry her. After the marriage, the so-called pregnancy was spontaneously “aborted” and her marriage was on the line. Her husband eventually traveled abroad to spend a few months. While he was away, she “conceived” again. Within six months, she “gave birth” to the delight of her husband and his family. Her marriage stayed, and in a few years, she “had” a second baby.

The truth was that she had arranged with a nurse in a hospital to find her a baby. She paid some money to the nurse who stole another woman’s baby, gave it to this young woman, and lied to the real mother of the baby that the baby had not survived. The second baby was another woman’s twin – she paid the nurse to steal one of two children by another woman for her.

A relative of mine recently found out through DNA testing that none of his three children is his biological child. Apparently, when his wife could not conceive after 3 years of marriage, she found another man to make her pregnant. The birth of each child sealed the love between her and her husband. After several years, one child fell ill and in the course of treatment, blood testing revealed that this child could not receive blood from either father or mother. This led to DNA testing which revealed that the father indeed had no child with his wife. The couple now live apart. Another woman tells a story of losing a genuine pregnancy. She quickly found her husband’s drunken cousin to re-impregnate her. A first, then a second child was born to the couple, and the husband still does not know that the children are not his biological children.

So why do women do this? Societal pressure, high expectations, a disdain for unfruitful women – that is why. Unless the society changes its expectations, some women will meet those expectations by any means necessary; after all, who would know? Women need to accept and support one another, whether single or married or widowed, barren or productive. We should stop using words like “bonini” and “yoosaa” (literally meaning “made like a man” and “empty woman” respectively) to describe women who do not have children. Husbands and their relatives and friends need to stop putting pressure on women to give birth; if this continues, we will “make children for our husbands” to please them. Do not feel any less a human being because you do not have a child. You are a woman, and nothing will change that.

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