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Why do Women faking pregnancy in Uganda?

“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.

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18 thoughts on “Why do Women faking pregnancy in Uganda?

  1. Rita says:

    It is a shame when a woman who is not infertile has to do things and is made to feel like she is the problem when a lack of children occurs in a marriage or relationship. But this is Uganda, or even Africa as a whole. We live in a patriachal society where men never come into question and we still have a long way to go with it.

    I don’t blame the women at all for doing this and they must not be punished whatsoever ie fined or imprisoned. Societal values have shaped and natured this behaviour and there is not even an attempt to try and understand their situation but to be seen as evil. The only choice they could have is costly like have IVF, the other choice would be to take both partners for a fertility check up but i cannot see the men agreeing to this, or have extra marital affairs to find out who really has the problem which risks them to STDs and marriage break down.

    I empathise with the women, but i see the dilemma.

  2. jan says:

    its an age old problem. Just think about Rachel , Jacob’s second wife( in the Bible) praying ” Give me Children or I die ‘ bse her sister Leah had children and she didn’t , even if her Husband didn’t seem to mind it, somehow the absence of kids mattered, plus the culture thing also nailed it.
    its a sad reality that the women have to move heaven and earth just to get babies, either to please their husbands or to fit in a society that finds it abnormal for a married woman going without kids.
    So just think about the pains those women went through before they finally settled for ‘dead doll’s or real corpses. That shows the magnitude of the problem. Meanwhile the men who demand this are so out of the picture!
    some men even tell their wives that ‘ i want a boy’ ‘ this time you have to give me an heir’ etc as if it is in a woman’s power to decide. I hate to mention it because it seems very cliched but this all takes us back to the gender debate!
    What really worries me is this generation, which we would assume could be more understanding, but they also make the same demands on their girlfies and wifies.
    ” she must first get pregnant, then i can marry her’ . ” I have waited this long to have kids, so we must have a baby immediately. when you ask- what if the babies don’t come- they don’t want to hear it. means few men in Uganda are prepared to deal with the faint reality of their wives/ women not having kids. when it happens the women take the blame!
    But really why don’t we see men who can’t have children running amok the way the women do? Simple- there is the assumption that it is not their fault- so they can ride on it. some of them don’t even know that they are the problem- Twisted world!

  3. Dear Rosebell,

    Nice research with a fantastic analysis of facts on the ground.I had read it before but revised it again after your notice to Heather.

    The challenge on the ground well illustrated.However, once crime is committed, the so called Law seeking Justice rush the poor ones to Court, no time to humanely assess the root causes to the porblem.

    See in the Bible too 1 Sam 1 & 2.Hannah suffered the same till the Lord answered her prayers with a son Samuel.This issue is a historical problem.Patriarchy a key challenge in man instances, but also not advisable to steal or fake Children to appease spouses.Let either sides accept reality & go for Medical check-up where appropriate.We might say the poor ones can not afford, but even rich ones do not go there too.

    Keep up the wonderful profession of educating the masses through the Media & hope your out put enlightened many of the necessity to assess information before putting it in ink.

    Regards

    Moses

    However,

  4. It’s not just women in Uganda who fake pregnancy. I live in the U.S. and during the holidays I saw a product being advertised (Santa’s little stocking stuffer) that shocked me. Using this product and telling someone you’re pregnant is beyond all rules and would probably prevent one from sleeping well. This fake pregnancy test is advertised for getting your man to marry you. (Hello feminism!) Ethic Soup blog has a good post on this at:

    http://www.ethicsoup.com/2009/12/santas-little-stocking-stuffer-a-fake-pregnancy-test.html

  5. Nyende Farouk says:

    Dear Rosebell,

    Thanks for this analytical piece of women faking pregnancy to find a way out from incessant husbands demanding children from them. I agree with you that our legal system should take a pro-active stance of understanding why a straight-thinking person would do such a thing.

    Infact, this is where i find our women folk difficult to understand. Take the example of Namatovu, did she, at anyone point, think her strategy was sustainable. She may not have been privileged (read educated) to understand that births at any hospital are registered, but a woman of her age, whom was she fooling to think that she would fake a pregnancy and claim that her ‘babies’ had been stolen at the medical facility?

    Even men, i think should have a share of the blame. Firstly, for pestering their spouses to bear children at all odds. Secondly, how does a man worth the name, stay with a wife under the same roof for 9 months, without having an idea as to whether his wife is (genuinely)pregnant or not. Sometimes when i read and hear about these stories, i feel people are just speaking in their utopian mind-sets. Unfortunately, it actually happens.

    Thanks Rosebell, as a lady you can sponsor a private members Bill to stop this vilification of women.

    Nyende Farouk,
    Kampala

  6. Edris Kisambira says:

    Hey Rosebell,
    I want to comment on this issue from the media perspective. In covering these issues, the media is not helping at all. I dont know whether it is us the journalists who are not good enough or we really do not have a platform. If you look at the two big dailies, they have just writen the what? when? where? why? and how? They have not moved to investigate and write really long articles explaining what the issues are and why they are happening….turning the whole story upside down, talking to barren women or impotent/infertile men just to find out whats up. Stories like this elsewhere are the ones that are given as much coverage on and on and not the politics as is the case here. I think media houses need to stop underpaying journalists, they need to change editorial policy whereby instead of filling a page with small stories about RDCs and village chiefs, they cover the real issues in society. And they need to pay top shillings for such stories so that my colleagues the journalists are motivated and their un-exploited potential used to the fullest…a story or stories like these would be overkilled in a lot of other media markets but not in Uganda. We just gloss over them, waiting for the next big political something to happen…..

  7. Rita says:

    This is really sad. But the saddest thing is how these things are reported. They are not addressing the real issue here that the women in genereal are facing. That is partriachal victims. They are being potrayed as evil and the repoerters are only telling a story. Hence not solving any issues or educating the masses on the problems women are facing. This is really sad. I feel for the women. They are not evil, they are only trying to survive the harsh reality of societal values and cultures.

  8. Grace says:

    Hey Rosebell,
    I think the world is going crazy or its poverty. Both the seller of the foetus and the buyer must be accounted for the crime. Then also their spouses for not caring whether the wife is pregnant because they must be staying 2gether.

  9. From time immemorial, most societies expect women to bare children to prove that they are finally women. The same pressure’s on men. So when neither fulfill thoer ‘duties’, this is what happens. So my question is to you Rosebell, can you still look at yourself as a woman when you have no children?

    • i have no children and i think i am a woman. i think there’s a difference in whether we give in to that pressure or not. every society has expectations but those that lead women to kill themselves or steal to satisfy are not what we need. And this pressure is not only on women, men too are expected to have children, the difference is that most times they can easily transfer their own inability burden to women. And women are in worse situation that one can be divorced for having no child and denied of property. The issue is not just the bearing of a child but for women the ‘security’ that comes with having that child. That’s why most who have no education and no income who depend on men, for them having a child is matter of life and death. it determines whether you’re despised or treated equally as other women. Otherwise i think i have a choice to make and not many have this.

  10. Rita says:

    The main problem here is the shifting of blame on women when there is the inability to have children. I am sure when people get married they feel having children is a priority as norm, to seal the marriage. When a couple cannot have children, why is it automatically the woman’s fault and why is it that women have to do this outrageous things and suffer emotionally and mentally when child bearing fails? It could well be a possibility that a man is sterile but this is not something our society acknowledges. Hence why we have women breaking laws by stealing children. The shame is on women not the men. And in many cases, when a man stands up and accepts that their wife cannot bear children, for some reason it seems fine, but when they kick off about it, then the rest of society sees it as evil.

    Why can’t we women have the same priviledge and say on the issue ? Because society has already placed the blame on women regardless of who can and who cannot bear children in the relationship. It will always be the burden of the woman unfortunately.

  11. Pingback: The news platform; how are women represented and portrayed? « Rosebell's Blog

  12. chanel says:

    First off, that woman was fined Shs 300K not for lying to her husband but for lying that Mulago stole her twins and gave her dolls. Refer to:
    http://www.observer.ug/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=7281&Itemid=70

    And yes she paid and was set free. I went to her home but as luck would have it she ran and hid in her bedroom on the sight of a visitor. She has children she just wanted something else.

    I think we women schould start telling men, if you dont shoot a boy I will cut off yo thing. Then we shall see how much of an ego they will be left with

    • Thanks Chanel for that input. I think your suggestion can only be implemented by a woman who has a choice. it reminds me of Matembe’s point a few years ago on how to deal with rape.

  13. Debi says:

    I agree with Chanel, especially if the man can shoot at all, and really what defines a woman is not being childless, its individual merits of ones self.Not having children simply, just means one does not have children.This is a refreshing, educational topic, and im happy to see intelligent comments.

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