Childlessness: the weight that society places on women

Childlessness: the weight that society places on women
Amany Shhada

Within Palestinian society, women are seen as a tool for reproduction only, and various pressures and insults are exerted on them if they do not have children, and tongues that invade their private lives pursue them.

"The consequence for you is reparation" is a Gazan word that often occurs in the ears of married women who have not yet given birth. whisper in their ears as a support for them and pray for procreation and offspring, but it is "heavy" on the souls of those who receive it and can cause them onerous mental health problems.

Although delayed childbearing is a purely health condition, it has turned into an obsession for women as a result of society's deficient view of them, causing them a sense of inferiority and guilt at the same time.

From a social and psychological point of view, psychologist Alaa Radi says that society always puts women in the first circle of accusation because of the lack of pregnancy during the first months or year of marriage, which exposes them to psychological problems such as anxiety, despair, depression, intellectual pressure, psychological stress, and other disorders.

The same happened with Iman Suleiman (29 years old), who has been married for 6 years, and before the first year without having children, family pressure began from both parties on them, which reached to hurt her with hurtful words in every family session.

For years, Iman and her husband, who live in Khan Younis governorate in the southern Gaza Strip, continued to be treated in primitive and traditional ways: "Each woman gives us a different recipe from the other until we tried all the popular recipes until we decided to go for treatment in specialized and reliable medical centers."

Today, the couple took refuge in a specialized fertility center, explaining: "After our secret agreement and to escape the fact that society followed our steps, we are now in the process of performing what is known as IVF (the process of fertilization takes place outside the woman's body) after years of treatment and operations that exhausted us economically."

Palestinian society in Gaza classifies women according to specific templates, such as a woman who has never been married puts her in a criterion alone, a divorced woman in another criterion, a married woman who has not given birth in another criterion, a married woman who gave birth to females but not males and a woman who has had a male child is in a completely different mold, and thus women are not spared from the restrictions of society intellectually and morally.

On the contrary, the man remains safe to some extent from all these societal norms and stereotypes, and there is even a societal epithet that says that a man is only judged by his wealth, but does he remain so even if he is sterile?

Safaa Fathy, 28, who married and later learned that her husband suffers from a genetic infertility problem, answers that it affects the societal perception of men to some extent, while she refuses to talk about the problem in front of people to maintain his masculinity.

The problem of genetic infertility in men is one of the most difficult genetic diseases resulting from a genetic defect in the chromosomes carried by the individual, which negatively affects the man's ability to reproduce.

Legally, the wife has the right to request separation in accordance with Article (43) of the Personal Status Law, in item (5), if the man was infertile or infertile during the marriage and she did not have a living child from him.

However, Safaa, who lives in the Maghazi refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip, told "Last Story" that she loves her husband, and that her desire to have children after four years of marriage does not stand in the way of her love for him or the possibility that they will live a lifetime alone.

Although her husband's family respects and loves her, she said, the issue of childbearing began to turn over time into a condition for maintaining married life and the home, until it became a heavy burden on her shoulders, especially when the family prioritized the older brother in treatment for reproduction.

On the other hand, society holds all family members a "sin" if one of them marries and does not have children, and the family remains in a societal 'test' stage to guess whether all its members can have children or not, which reflects negatively on the chances of girls from the family marrying.

Therefore, Nour Iyad, a twenty-year-old woman who lives in the northern Gaza Strip, was not spared from the tongues of the suitors when they propose to her to their children, as soon as they know that two of her brothers got married and did not have children, they start saying hurtful words.

"A woman who has no child and is not a mother, a woman devoid of life and remains alone", a phrase that echoes in Nour's ear from a woman who sat with her, as if blaming her and making her feel guilty.

This societal view and prejudices about the life and future of girls before or after marriage cause them to prefer social isolation, according to psychologist Alaa Radi, who said that the matter may affect a woman's relationship with her husband and build coldness that may lead to family disintegration or separation.

There is no doubt that the chances of women seeking to have children increase as they age as an innate and social requirement that is inevitable, according to Radi, but the pressures of society, especially the comparisons between women who have given birth and others, lead to a loss of self-confidence and an urgent need for psychological counseling.

As for the treatment route, Radi stressed that the marital relationship based on clarity, affection, and containment helps to overcome the matter psychologically faster and better while finding solutions and speedy treatment and recovery.