Desire for male child causing maternal morbidity, mortality
In Nigeria, quest for male child has resulted in multiple un-spaced pregnancies.
This is one of the reasons why many women are dying during childbirth and lots more developing health problems. Male child preference has given rise to violence against women and girls.
According to EU-UN Spotlight Initiative, discrimination of the girl child is a crime and should be stopped.
After five un-spaced pregnancies and childbirth, all using Caesarian Section (CS), Ngozi Egbu, 35-year-old, still got pregnant again because she is looking for a male child.
During her sixth pregnancy, Ngozi developed complications at the 7th month of the pregnancy and is now fighting for her life at the General Hospital Awka, where she resides.
According to the doctors, she had developed high blood pressure and respiratory problem. The previous CS stitch had also torn resulting in haematoma(blood collection in the body), and the baby had become distressed due to lack of oxygen and died in the womb. Ngozi is in danger of losing her life.
In a private hospital in Lagos state, another woman, 45-year-old Rashidat Balogun, had just died from sepsis and bleeding during the birth of her eighth child.
Despite being warned by doctor to stop being pregnant because of her age and health condition, Rashidat’s husband had continued to pressure and threaten her with taking a second wife if she doesn’t give him a male child.
Finally, Rashidat had given birth to a male child but sadly, she couldn’t live to see the child.
Another woman, Somewhere else in Kano state, Saidat Ibrahim, 34-year-old mother of six girls had just died while procuring an unsafe abortion.
After finding out she is pregnant again for the 7th time, a scan had shown that the child is a girl. Her husband had warned her that he will leave her and get a young wife who will give him a male child if she gives birth to a girl again.
Scared of losing her husband, Saidat goes to get an abortion and dies in the process.
These women are not alone. somewhere, each day in Nigeria, a woman is battling with her life and health while trying to get a baby boy. They are going through physical and psychological torture in their marriage for not ‘producing a male child’.
Culture of Male preference resulting in violence against women and girls:
The male child preference has resulted in all kinds of violence against women and this is on the rise in the country, the EU-UN Spotlight Initiative declares.
Recently, the European Union and the United Nations came together to form a global partnership, called The EU-UN Spotlight initiative, aimed at eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls and all harmful practices in support of the 2030 agenda on sustainable development goals.
In their statement, during a recent media brief in Ibadan, Oyo State, they explained that “violence against women and girls remain a silent killer that has taken the lives of many. The health outcomes go beyond the direct result of physical, psychological or mental health issue.”
According to them, “violence against women and girls in Nigeria is against the law and survivors do not usually receive full legal support, as they prefer to stay in abusive relationships than leave to face the ridicule of living outside relationships and or wedlock.
Women and girls subjected to violence are unwilling to lodge formal complaint due to a lack of trust in the police force and stigmatisation in society.”
Nigeria’s maternal mortality rate still alarmingly high.
Reports show that most women who are looking for male children go-ahead to have many children and have refused to space their pregnancies. This has led to more women dying during child birth and some others developing health problem.
According to experts, ending some cultural practices that encourage Male child preference will help reduce maternal mortality and morbidity in the country.
The latest figure from UNICEF shows that women of childbearing age (between 15 and 49 years of age) in Nigeria (about 40 million), suffer a disproportionally high level of health issues surrounding childbirth. The country currently contributes 10 percent of global deaths for pregnant mothers with a maternal mortality rate of 576 per 100,000 live births, making it the fourth-highest on Earth.
Even though some of these women have awareness about family planning, and have been told that It will allow them rest between pregnancies in order to regain their health and strength and enable them to have healthy children, yet the quest for a male child have made them refuse family planning.
Some socio-cultural practices have led to the culture of male child preference:
Preference for male children is a practice going on in Nigeria, Africa and other parts of the world. Some of the socio-cultural practices that have led to the male child preference are; tradition that forbids women from inheriting her father’s property, the tradition that forbids women from bearing their father’s names after marriage, the tradition that requires only males to perform certain cultural and religious rituals such as death rituals.
According to a Legal Practitioner and The Chairperson Child Right Protection Network Crossriver, James Ibor, “one of the most challenging acts of power imbalance between men and women in Nigeria is patriarchy.
“Due to the patriarchal structure of the society, women and girls are usually the victim of sexual violence and other forms of violence in the country. Patriarchy is a violation of section 4 of the 1999 constitution as amended.
“We have entrenched certain practices that make it natural for men to acquire a woman, pay bride prize, later you can say she’s too fat so you devalue her by divorcing her…there is no law that says a woman should bear her husband name after marriage.”
Explaining more about harmful practices such as male child preference and how it leads to violence against women, the Eu-UN Spotlight initiative statement said, “the social context of violence against women and girls is based on the traditional patriarchal structure that defines gender. It is the belief in Nigeria- being a patriarchal society that women are subordinate to men when married, should surrender to their husbands…. issues regarding their lives are decided upon by others…and violence is prevalence in the society.”
Who’s to be blamed for the birth of a female child?
In her presentation at the EU-UN Spotlight media brief, The Executive Director, Gender Perspective, Tammie Kammonke, explained that Gender is determined by Male chromosomes.
Science explains that: Chromosomes are cells that carry genetic information. Men usually have one X and one Y chromosome, while women have two Xs.
During fertilization, the sperm cells race toward the mother-to-be’s egg cell. If a sperm with a Y chromosome beats all others, then the fetus will be XY and the pregnancy will result in a boy. But if a sperm with an X chromosome wins the race to the egg, then the fetus will be XX. and the parents will have a baby girl. Hence the sex of the baby depends on which sperm gets to the egg first. So it’s actually men’s chromosomes that dictate the gender of the child.
Unfortunately, women are blamed for the birth of a girl child. “And discrimination against women and girls starts from when the child is in the womb. Women and girls experience a life-cycle of gender-based violence; from the pre-birth stage to the infancy and childhood.
Some families use their girl child to make money, some are maltreated because they’re girls, some are married off to older men, and the cycle continues, from adolescence to reproductive age,” Kammonke said.
Male child preference is a violation of the rights of women:
In his presentation, Ibor explained that several legislations in Nigeria prohibit discrimination based on gender.
“The chapter four of the 1999 constitution, other legislation like; the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act (VAPP Act), The Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)- which Nigeria has ratified even though we have not domesticated, other national and international treaties, have all prohibited discrimination against women, so anybody who discriminated a woman because she’s a woman and prefers a man, has committed a crime and has violated the fundamental right of women
“Discrimination of women is a violation of the rights of a girl child as guaranteed in chapter four of the 1999 constitution, as amended. In Nigeria, when such discrimination against women happen, NGO’s, or the child or government can take up the case in a family court in the states where family court is established, like in Lagos, Cross river state. The family court helps protect the rights of a child and girl child but unfortunately the family court is not established in all states of the federation”, he said.
Explaining about the limitation of these laws, Ibor, noted that; “The non-adaptation of these laws by all states is part of the limitation to these laws. “When these laws are adopted by various states, it enables them to establish relevant institutions like the family court.
Other limitations are cultural, religious barriers. Men will always pick things that favour them from the bible or Quran and abandon those that favour the female child.