The curse of a childless woman
Let’s support childless women, not pass judgement, says Masanda Peter.
Society expects a woman to have a child or children when they reach a certain age. Often you’d find a childless woman being asked when she is planning to have babies much to their irritation in most cases. As soon as the woman is married the in-laws will ask when they can expect grandchildren. There seems to be pressure for one to have children because of her womanhood.

In some areas, especially amongst the African community, being barren makes you lose your standing in society because you are not viewed as a complete person. As a woman it seems like you have not really completed your womanly duties. As women with children we always speak about our children making the childless feel inadequate as if they do not fit in.

There are harsh words that are often said to degrade barren women: umfazi ongazalanga uyakubeleka ilitye – loosely translated it means ‘a woman who has not bore any children will carry a stone on her back’. Not having a child is being equated to you carrying a stone on your back to make up for the baby you don’t have.

Some people go as far as quoting from the Bible and seeing barren women as cursed as stated in Exodus 23-25 in the Bible. They will say: ‘You must have done something wrong and you are now being punished for it by God closing your womb.’

Not woman enough

A certain lady I know who could not bear any children was told to go to the field to join other cows in the field because she was a bull (as they say in Xhosa uyinkabi yenkomo kungalinywa ngaye.) Meaning she is a bull that can be used for ploughing in the fields because she is now woman enough and does not belong with other women. Just imagine how this woman must have felt because this was said right to her face.

Some women have lost their marriages because they cannot have children. Some men go on to have children out of wedlock with other women. How insensitive can a man be? Unless of course this is something that has been discussed by the couple and agreed upon but I highly doubt that. Of course this will make the lady feel like a failure and perhaps not being complete.

I have observed that in most cases the problem sits with women and not men. There is male infertility that needs to get as much attention as does female infertility. The problem could be from both sides but we are so quick to judge the woman first and it is us women who start with passing judgement. Barren women do not deserve the treatment we give them.

Read more by Masanda Peter

Do you feel society judges childless women more harshly than men?

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