Glad I Don’t Live in Chad

An interesting Newsweek article talks about how badly infertile women are treated in some third-world countries. It’s quite horrible. In “What It Means to Be a Woman,” Karen Springen wrote about a Mumbai woman who was ostracized for 13 years before fertility treatments allowed her to become a mother. But it gets worse than that. Quoting various experts from around the globe, she talks of how infertile women are shunned from gatherings such as weddings because they are believed to carry a curse that might be contagious.

In Chad, if woman doesn’t bear children, her husband has the right to leave her or take a new wife. Springen’s story also reports that in the Hindu religion women without children can’t go to heaven because they have no sons to perform the death rituals. Some Chinese and Vietnamese believe the souls of childless people can’t rest after they die, and in Muslim cultures women without children sometimes aren’t allowed to be buried in graveyards or sacred grounds.

Compared to that, our situation is easy. We can even joke about it because we have choices. We can choose whether or not we want to be mothers. If we are infertile, we can try medical treatments or adopt. Either way, we aren’t punished, well, except perhaps for the mothers who can’t get past not becoming grandmothers. At worst, we feel left out of the Mom Club and lonely in our old age. Of course those who want children and can’t have them grieve the loss of the babies they never had, but thank God nobody says they can’t go to heaven or be buried wherever they want.

In discussing our childless state, we need to remember different cultures have different ways of looking at it and do our best to promote understanding. Let’s hope that as the world grows smaller, more tolerant ways will spread and women who don’t happen to be mothers will be honored for their value as individuals.

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