There are certain beliefs, ideas, principles and practices that seem foreign and preposterous to Africans. Beliefs like adoption, staying single as a woman, In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF), Surrogacy, etc. all seems far-fetched given the cultural biases in our society. For a long time, the idea of family planning seemed strange given that Africans believe that giving birth to a lot of children is a gift and this gift should be welcomed. Presently, in the northern region in Nigeria, a lot of people still believe that family planning is the way of the westerners and it is an abomination according to their values.
The concept of Surrogacy in Nigeria is a ‘taboo’. Surrogacy is the legal agreement between individuals usually a couple and another woman where the woman agrees to carry the couple’s pregnancy to term for a consideration that seems fair to both parties. Surrogacy is presently not legalized in Nigeria due to the ethical, religious and cultural beliefs and biases inherent in our culture. An African woman is not secure or considered complete in matrimony until she procreates. Africans put a lot of emphasis on child-bearing and the inability of an African woman to fall pregnant within months of marriage is usually seen as a cause for anxiety and if this condition continues for some years, the woman is tagged barren and treated as a woman with a disability. Seeing that the inability to conceive is seen as such, in most cases the husband’s family mount pressure on the husband to marry another wife in order to produce a child. This leads many women into makeing desperate decisions which may not necessarily be legally recognized, including the practice of buying babies.
Over the past few decades, the issue of surrogacy has gained traction in international community. So much so that efforts are being expended to ensure best practices like drafting of legislations to support this concept but discouraging the commercialization of same. Nigeria on the other hand is a multi-diverse country that places so much on fertility in marriage. The extent of this is such that the security of the marriage is hinged on it. However, given this emphasis on fertility, it is quite interesting that Africans frown at other methods of birth like surrogacy, in-vitro fertilization (IVF) without considering that they may be the only option available to some couples who cannot seem to have their own children. Some due to medical reasons. The stigma, shame and backlash against women who can’t seem to conceive or carry their pregnancy to term is so inhumane. These women are often tagged witches, prostitutes and the likes. This has in turn informed the decision of these women to opt for baby trafficking which has spiked up the rate of baby factories presently in Nigeria. On the 30th of September, 2019, BBC released a post tagged “Nigeria police raid Lagos baby factory”. According to the post, girls were lured to the commercial hub of the country with promises of jobs and a better life only to be raped by different men. These ladies are then kept within the compound with ‘untrained nurses’ till they’re delivered. The babies would be collected from them and sold to wealthy couples who can’t possibly conceive or carry a pregnancy to term. Male children are sold for $1400 (#504,000) and female children are sold for $830 (#298,800). The ‘infertile’ woman will pretend to be pregnant by wearing fake silicon pregnancy and would pretend as though she’s travelling out to have the baby, few weeks later, she’s back with a new child. This is to reinforce the extent to which couples are willing to go just to have kids due to ridicule and stereotypes from the community, family and friends.
But are there reasons why a woman won’t be able to conceive or carry a pregnancy to term?
Yes! It has been medically proven that it is possible for a woman to be unable to carry pregnancy to term or even be unable to conceive. Some causes include: Hormonal Issues, Structural Issues (Fibroids, Blocked Fallopian tube, Abnormal Anatomy), Diminished Ovarian reserve, Premature Menopause, Cessation of Ovulation, Athletic Over-training, Sickle cell disease, Diabetes, Kidney Disease while in men, it includes: Undescended testicles, Genetic defects, DNA damage, Alcohol use, Cancer, Overexposure to heat, Exposure to chemicals and radiations. Whilst some of these are caused by individuals themselves and can be avoided, some are health conditions that aren’t caused by the individuals but the resulting effect will be infertility. In some developed countries, this is the only ground acceptable for surrogacy and the surrogate mother has to fulfill some obligations too. Surrogacy is an artificial arrangement by three consenting adults to help one another and shouldn’t be discouraged if done without commercial benefits and under regulations. For a country with premium priority on child-bearing, this assisted method can change the narrative of infertility if duly explored.
Africans and Nigerians particularly should have a change of attitude, mindset and perception in issues relation to child-bearing and options available. Opting for the option of surrogacy may be a couple’s only chance at being parents given medical reasons and they should be free to make their own decision as it relates to marriage, adoption, child-bearing or surrogacy.