By Khadi Mansaray (photo)
A few weeks ago pandemonium erupted in Freetown when it was reported that a baby had been stolen. Investigations revealed the culprit was a nurse in the maternity ward and had faked pregnancy. It’s appeared that the intention was to steal a baby when her apparent baby was due. Understandably the mother was quite distraught. This despicable act seemed to be premeditated and meticulously planned that mental instability is unlikely. It’s a crime and should be treated as such. However it could also be a desperate cry for help.
Thankfully the baby was promptly found and reunited with its mother.
As expected there was public outcry for justice to be meted out preferably as harshly as possible. There was hardly any sympathy for the abductor and calls for justice to be tempered with mercy well mostly met to anger. Recently so many bad things have been happening to remaining Sierra Leone ranging from violent rapes to murder. The public is angry and eager that someone pays for the terrible crimes to women. A willing confession from a baby thief guilty was perfect for the public rage. The general reaction was ‘string her up’.
Of course the mother is the victim is the victim yet once again the incident makes one reflect on attitudes towards women. There is tremendous pressure, first to marry and then to have children. Society is especially unkind to unmarried and childless women. There is an unspoken agreement that for a woman, success is marriage and childbirth and everything else doesn’t really matter. Choosing to leave unpleasant or unhappy marriages is not always considered to be a good option. Being unmarried or childless is perceived to be the worst fate for an African woman. I still gasp at the unkindness that has become acceptable to dish out to childless women. First they’re the cruel jabs on barrenness and the assumption that it’s a result of a shady past or evil deeds. And even when it’s accepted that it’s not her fault. She is still perceived to be of diminished value and something to be pitied. All other achievements and success become irrelevant, being unmarried and unable to bear children is considered to be a failure and society has its way of punishing women who fall in this category. A woman’s raison d’etre is to marry and procreate.
A childless woman is never considered to be a mother regardless of how many children she may raise. Membership to that club is exclusively for those who give birth even if they lose older children possibly due to bad parenting. Sometimes her opinions are ignored and voice stifled purely because she has no children. Other women decide not to tell of their pregnancy because they assume that she will not wish them well or may even try to harm their baby. Mothers take advantage, she is the free babysitter, after all what better way to generate good karma so that the man in the sky we pray to may eventually have mercy and grant her children. So she becomes the aunt with the disposable income to spend on unruly nephews and nieces. In fact she must be grateful for the opportunity to have a glimpse of motherhood and is expected to bask in the borrowed glory of her peers. Some even question their right to be involved in matters of state and their decision-making ability is questioned on everything the worst thing is that they actually think their behaviour and feelings are justified because they have children.
Not everyone thinks like this or behaves unkindly and most times it’s not deliberate. Surely we can do better, it really doesn’t take much to be considerate and it costs nothing to be kind. Appreciating the free babysitter is a good place to start. Trust me, they do have meaningful things to do with their time. There is no prescribed religious penance for being childless.
Some defiantly call themselves childfree. I wont say not having children is great, but it’s not doom and gloom as some like to believe. There’s the freedom to make decisions independently without having to worry about the children/husband. There’s also an opportunity to pursue chosen careers with the vigour. They never worry and they about losing their figure after childbirth and whether their men will still find them desirable. It’s true some would still rather have children than all these benefits but they should be allowed to grieve the loss without being made to feel inadequate. A childfree Live can be fulfilling, meaningful and even happy.
Although I don’t approve of the abduction, I can understand the pressure that led to the desperate act and believe it’s also a cry for help. I wish Society could be less judgemental and much kinder to childfree women and treat then much better. They’re still a valuable part of society and entitled to dignity and respect as much as everybody else. There shall always be women fall outside the norm and they are there is still precious and certainly not inferior. So when the case gets to court. I hope justice will be tempered with mercy.
Copyright (c) Politico 2016