“I did unimaginable things, dancing around a graveyard at night, drinking all sorts of herbs but nothing helped, so maybe that’s what God wants me to be – without children. What hurts most is the people close to you; your immediate family talk about you like you’re not worth anything without children.”
Those were words of a woman I met late 2008. I was researching on a story that The Independent published about how the infertility burden in Uganda is carried by women. I went back to the find this story today after I read two news reports about women faking pregnancy and ending up in court. Two cases in less than a week. A woman from Mpigi district was arrested for faking pregnancy and taking a dead child to her husband while another identified as Namatovu survived being lynched by a mob after she claimed to have given birth to twins but returned home with a pair of dolls.
All the women claimed to have given birth at Mulago hospital but there have been no such records at the hospital and investigations found that in both accounts were just a falsification. Namatovu was fined sh300,000 (about 150 $) or 12 months imprisonment and as expected this woman from the village would not afford such a fine so she is in jail. In both cases women had failed to conceive after several years in marriage. While in the media we have these stories, police swinging into action and courts following, I didn’t find a proper context given to these women’s story. Why would a person in their proper mind take dolls for a funeral or in the latest case go probably dig up a grave to show that you delivered a child?
That’s why I went back to the infertility story. Some limited research has showed that over 14% of Uganda’s men are infertile, meaning they cannot impregnate their partners. And 70% of the infertility in Uganda is preventable. But in all these cases we can be sure it’s women being taken to witch doctors and being insulted that they cannot have children. The pressure to have a child is immense that women have been physically and sexually abused by all sorts of people in their hunt for a pregnancy. With Uganda having few numbers of gynaecologists few Ugandans can afford the private clinics whose prices can go above 200 $. Women and men with curable fertility problems are never brought to hospitals for there’s no one who has told them that there’s even such a chance.
Without a child for a few years the pressure from family to have a second wife mounts. Sometimes women are driven out of their homes and left with nothing. This is well deep rooted that most cultures would allow a man to be given back his bride price if a woman would not give him a child never mind that in most cases it was the men with the problem. It is poverty to think that the effects of this pressure will only be faced by these women alone. Now women are driven crazy to the extent of faking pregnancy and dead children for it seems society is more empathetic that u tried even when your child is dead. In the end we jump to cover their stories of fake pregnancies and their trials forgetting what brings us to these points.
This is not to the women didn’t do any wrong. But just like the mob, we (media) are shocked and outraged by their actions and we don’t ask what drove them to this. Reading the stories of these two women should tell you that there are so many who have done this before successfully and many will continue to look for a way to beat the societal system, unfortunately this is no solution. I think also the Ugandan justice system should rethink prosecution of such cases.