Infertility is one of the problems that affect women all over the world. However, in India, the problem is dire due to the extreme social stigma attached to it. In this country, the value of a woman is mapped by her reproductive worth quite explicitly and quite singularly due to an extreme misogynistic society we live in.
In the kind of pronatalist society we live in, the social, emotional and psychological consequences of infertility are manifold, particularly on women. Childbearing is linked to the very self-worth and value due to the way women are conditioned right from birth. A woman without children of her own has her very womanhood questioned almost all of the time. Hence, apart from the extreme social stigma, infertility affects the mental health of women immensely with most not being in positions to access help.
For men, the social aspect of the problem doesn’t amount to dysfunctionality faced in their very lives. In several scenarios, if a couple is unsuccessful in their attempts at conceiving a child, the blame or implication of the existence of a fault falls on the woman’s shoulders. Men are rarely questioned about their part to play in childbirth.
Infertility among men is an inconceivable idea and has volatile consequences to be pointed out. Hence most men fiercely avoid getting tested. It’s easy to have the blame forced on the woman and to ostracise her. Marital violence or domestic abuse associated with failure to reproduce is a much prevalent and most unfortunate aspect of Indian society.
Added to the explicit prejudice against infertile women, the condition plays out very badly in terms of their mental health. Therapy is still, unfortunately, a far fetched thing for the Indian imagination. On top of that, most women aren’t aware of the dimension of mental health and go about living their daily lives despite severe stress or depression, very often without knowing they suffer from such clinical conditions.
The view towards adoption in our society is largely marred by prejudice, condescension or antipathy. The society is largely bifurcated along lines of caste and class and concerns regarding the child’s ( to be adopted) biological origins which demotivate people from providing a home to children lacking one. Several western societies have a healthier and progressive view towards adoption or giving birth out of wedlock. Women can approach adoption agencies and find willing couples to accept their child into their families. In India, birth out of wedlock is a huge taboo and involves extreme(often violent) consequences for women. There is no place for freedom with regard to sexuality in a society like ours that works under strict codes of conduct with regard to choosing partners or planning families.
All such factors make the absence of a child in their lives a huge factor affecting women’s mental and emotional health and wellbeing. A healthier view towards adoption and most importantly, helping women find their identity and worth outside the role of maternal caregiver is important to fight the problem that affects a major part of the population in India.