In virtually every society, individuals feel pressured to have children, although in some societies these pro-natalist pressures are stronger than in others
It is indeed a well-known fact that children are considered the crowning glory in an African marriage – in other words, your greater glory in life is directly proportional to the number of children you will bring forth to mother earth.
The Male Child Preference in Africa
Male-child preference is one of the oldest issues in most of the societies in Africa with special reference to sons being given special treatment over daughters while some school of thoughts believe that sons increase the reputation of the family, and protect the family’s interests, we still cannot underestimate the power and aura the female-child brings to the family.
Most women in this region usually do not get proper recognition in their husbands’ families until and unless they have had a son. In fact, some communities look down on a man (in a broader sense a family) with no son as he is seen as someone whose lineage would be abolished when he goes to meet his ancestors.
It is also a known practice in some kingdoms in Africa where they are being ruled by Kings and not what is obtainable in some other countries like the UK, Denmark, etc. where the firstborn child, irrespective of the gender(whether male or female) is considered the next ruler. The effects of a preference for sons on individuals, particularly women, societies, and nations have been negative rather than positive. Preference for sons creates a big social and health concern in many parts of the world, predominantly in the developing nations.
The Factors Contributing to Male Child Preference
There are indeed several factors that affect a male-child preference, which includes: socio-economic set-up of the society, cultural beliefs, literacy level, lesser opportunities for women jobs, cultural restrictions on women, family size, male dominance.
Sons are heirs to family dynasties who stay put in the family irrespective of the situations on the ground, compared to daughters who would otherwise leave their families soon after getting married. It is often said that male children are very special and more important to the family than the females and that the females are other people’s property.
In some societies, women who have more girls never give up producing children in the hope that they may eventually have a baby boy. Many black African women greatly desire to have baby boys because they believe that that will secure their place alongside their husband.
It is for this reason that boy heirs are valued by families to the extent of viewing their education as more important than that of their siblings, particularly that of girls with a view to their future role as providers for the immediate family.
Son preference was found to be stronger in areas where daughters were more expensive to marry owing to the dowry system. Cultural preference for sons is evident from some traditions, only sons could perform birth, death and marriage rituals even to the extent of having landed properties while their female counterparts are left aside.
This issue of land acquisition is associated with the Igbo people, as daughters are not viewed as partakers of landed properties, rather are spectators who watch from afar when such discussions or sharing is being carried out.
Thoughts on the Girl Child
Although son preference was stronger, some 90% of women would want to have at least one daughter realizing the importance of women in a house for household activities and perpetuation of generation. A common perception of son’s preference on daughter was the ascribed ability of sons; to contribute more to family income, provide adequate support to parents in old age; carry on the family name and impose minimal financial burdens on their parents.
Women’s employment problems and male inheritance also favored son preference in Zambia. Excessive infant mortality in females was due to discrimination against females in the allocation of food and health care within the household. Aside from male’s attitude towards son preference, women in most of the North-African countries also preferred sons to daughters. In addition, women were having few opportunities to generate income and invest in household resources.
in female children as compared to males, thereby further widening the chances for son preference. Preferential son treatment may lead to larger family size and higher fertility if there is an increased incidence of female births. Emphasis on women education and employment, giving them due to status in the society, and creating awareness among the people to treat son and daughter alike would be better options to eliminate frustration, reduce fertility rate and limit family size.
African traditions lay massive emphases on the value of childbearing in a marriage, with special emphasis on the birth of male-children. In the same vein, women whose ﬁrstborn children are boys are valued and held in high esteem in society and men whose families are ﬁlled with male children are considered digniﬁed. This
creates a ‘vacuum’ where many families are so desperately wanting to have male children that the husbands engage in polygamy and extramarital affairs.This desperation leads to increase in population and most times, deaths of the woman in discuss(especially if she gives birth through C-section). While some women are subjected to severe violence and abuse as a result, others decide to get
divorced. It is important to note, however, that this is contrary to their faith in Jesus Christ. We know that every person is created in the image of God, but we also need to understand that everybody – regardless of his or her gender – is created for a purpose. It is also important to adhere to the Constitution of Nigeria and other African countries, which forbids any kind of discrimination including gender-based discrimination.
Through its pastoral services, the church needs to preach and teach the equality of all people, despite their gender differences. Another measure that can help to improve our efforts in combating women’s marginalization and discrimination is the activation of our churches and communities to actively support women empowerment programs and skill acquisitions.
We need to place equal value to both male and female, in their uniqueness and differences. This will go a long way in changing perceptions about children, even at birth, and enable us to look at children exactly as that: Children.
Victor U. — Husband and father raising young stars writes in from Lagos, Nigeria.