Male Child Preference Syndrome: The Dilemma of Parenthood in South-Eastern Nigeria
Stephen Charles Kenechukwu
Many already think 35-year-old Amanda and her family an enigma of perfection, even when she holds a contrary opinion in that regard. Amanda’s husband is a major investor in a renowned oil firm situated in Abuja and simultaneously runs a grandiose and rather classy five-star hotel in the commercial city of Lagos.
Born to her family are three fair-complexioned and ravishingly beautiful lasses with hypnotic golden-brown eyes, long silky hair and pointy petite noses such that many would readily gamble a fortune on the idea that they might be half-castes. The bane – for her companion – has always been that Amanda had sworn she’d never conceive of a male child. Having had two miscarriages and birthed her last issue by c-section, Amanda cannot help but yield to the pressure from her husband to give baby making another shot.
Amaka, 37, says she has had her own share of the misery with mother-in-law swearing she’ll make her life a miserable trajectory. Memories of her husband’s romantic gestures are now completely ousted by talks of how she keeps birthing ‘those things’ in place of the ‘real stuff’. After her last child, Amaka had lost it when her husband refused to show up at the hospital after having received a backdrop about the child’s sex.
“If you so badly need a male child, you should have put it in there so we’ll both have our ways!” she had fired at her husband for his outright refusal to bear the nursing mother’s little girl in his arms. She indeed feared that her husband would come barraging through the hallway like a raging bull to deal her the smack of her life for the retortion and – confirming her fears – she was the red flag in that scenario and earned a swollen face for it.
A decade of marriage has passed, yet, pregnant Amarachi – in her first trimester – remains convinced that she’d have to bear a male child if she intends throwing back in her ousted foot into the unstable confines of her marriage. She can’t bear the thought of having a rival in the name of surrogateship or polygamy and, for fear of tension in her marriage, has refused to buy her husband’s suggestion of looking up the fetus’s sex through ultrasonography.
Anecdotal accounts of this sort are not uncommon among Igbo couples and often spur quite disturbing questions from right-thinking minds. What exactly is wrong with the female child? Countless female children have lived a life of misery, suffered untold hardship and societal marginalization for some age-long myth.
Afront the patrilineal and patriarchal system that bedevils the Igbo subculture, it is reportedly commonplace that couples without male children are ones with nothing. Also long-practiced is the belief that females don’t inherit the wealth of their parents as such is only reserved for their male counterparts who retain the family name, unlike females who are married off.
In cases couples without male children, the girls are left to face the deceitful ploys of disgruntled relatives looking to lay claims on spoils for which they never worked. The misery – in cases of couples worse hit – often doubles back towards the wife who risks losing her husband. Situations of this sort have led many Igbo men into putting their spouses through the crucibles in order that they might redeem their image, stave off imminent inheritance issues that might follow their demise, and come into conformity with the long-practiced but highly controversial norm.
The social construction of gender is another grotesque flank to the entire ruckus. Notwithstanding the exposure of millennial couples, the rather lopsided assignment of roles between males and females and the prejudiced construction of gender within the Igbo society is still relatively prevalent. Many still nurture a twinge of this belief that females are only good enough for the kitchen, being married off to the highest bidder, even when there are radicals that have overturned this belief system.
There is a need to re-work the prejudiced gender construction within our society if we’re to avert the population explosion, financial crisis, marriage wreckages, health complications, and mortal danger that accompany the much too prevalent and pursued preference for male children. The ultimate paradox then appears to be that while many south-easterners are out hankering for male children, many others pine to have just the exact opposite and mostly for the wrong reasons. If our society could purge itself of these archaic ideologies, then we would once again come to appreciate and unravel the largely unexplored and vast potentials ingrained within our young and promising generation irrespective their sexes.
About the Author
Stephen Charles Kenechukwu is a Linguist, Freelance Writer & Editor, Budding Journalist.