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In some cultures being childless is the worst fate that can befall a person

By Nina Steele 

I have to admit to feeling very uneasy reading the story of the Indian couple who had their first biological child in their 70s. The husband is 79 and although the exact date of birth of the wife cannot be established, as she has no birth certificate, she is believed to be ‘five to seven years younger than him’.

Predictably, the couple explained that pressure from their culture was the main reason behind their decision to keep trying even at this old age. We are told that the couple ‘had faced ridicule in a country where infertility is sometimes seen as a curse from God’.

As a person of African descent, pressure from culture is something that I know a bit about. There is this ingrained belief that you can never be happy until you have had a child. This dangerous belief is behind the rise of baby factories in certain parts of Africa, particularly Nigeria.

The sad truth is, that pressure is not just confined to these parts of the world. In many cases, if you are an Indian or African living in the West, you still feel under the same pressure, particularly if many members of your family also live in the West.

The story of the woman who faked her own pregnancy is a case in point. She and her husband had everything to live for. She was a healthcare assistant, he a psychiatrist. Yet, even two well educated and successful people felt so desperate to fit in with the rest of their family members that they were willing to risk everything to become parents.

Although I may have some sympathy for a poor couple living in a rural part of Africa or India, I cannot say the same for a well off couple living in the comfort of the West. That’s because I believe that people like myself can become role models for the millions of childless people living in the developing world, because the pressure to conform is far greater over there, particularly when you happen to be poor. What hope is there for these people, when a successful couple in the West is willing to go as far as buying a child from a baby factory?

Ultimately, regardless of how harsh a culture is on childless people, change will not happen until a few decide to stand up to it. Yes it is likely to be extremely difficult and unpleasant for some, but that is the only way to change people’s attitude.

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