At a recent burial ceremony of Fidel Castro Odinga, the son of Kenyan Politician Raila Odinga, Oburu Odinga, the uncle to the late Fidel humiliated the deceased’s first wife in public by remarking that he advised his nephew to divorce her as she was barren. Oburu claimed that Veronica Wanjiru was a bad wife as she had a suspicious character in that she even failed to get pregnant since she became married to Fidel Odinga. As the crowd sang and cheered on he said it was good that Fidel Odinga divorced her and married Lwam Bekele at least she gave Fidel and the Odinga family a grand child, something that Shiro failed in her many years of marriage to the deceased.
The topic of child bearing and if it defines a marriage or who is to blame when the woman can’t conceive has been a controversial topic for many years especially in Africa. Depending on what angle people are looking at it from, sometimes pure science and what defines a marriage can be distorted or disregarded completely. Be it from a religious stand point, traditional or scientific. All these have their way of dealing with it.
Despite advancements in technology and the fact that more Africans are now more civilized due to education than before, most societies still believe that a childless marriage is no marriage at all. The same societies
Looking at if from a religious perspective, the scriptures say to procreate and fill the earth. People take it too seriously. Like God will hold you to account if you marry and fail to procreate. Well, in the Bible itself there are women that could not bear children. For instance, Sarah the wife of Abraham, Hannah who prayed to God for a child among others. In these examples the women suffered a great deal not being able to bear children. The marriages did not break just because of that though, because the very same Bible rebukes divorce. The men were understanding and had faith. It worked for them. To them children are a gift from God and faith worked for them. There was of course the option of marrying a second wife or more, but that is in the Old Testament.
The New Testament advocates for monogamous marriages. So faith is something the believers will have to exercise.
One thing to note though was that in the beginning of the Bible, there is a marriage that takes place. Between Adam and Eve. That marriage clearly says that the man and woman shall join and become one. After that they were told to go and procreate and fill the world. Because God told them by blessing their union. If you look at it, it was all in God’s time that they conceived. That is the religious stand point.
The traditional stand point is different in every community. But the common factor is that children are a blessing across all cultures. The union in traditional times was determined on the fertility of a woman. If the woman had a history of infertility in the family the chances of a marriage were minimal. But we have to know that the same traditions have elements that we chose to ignore after embracing civilization. Why would it be that today we choose to follow a backward way of thinking like saying the primary reason for marriage is procreation? So if the man has a problem does it mean the woman is allowed to marry another husband to ensure procreation? Is this a double edge sword or just fits if it suits the man?
Scientifically, we have come to know that there are several reasons for infertility. Yes, some do include taking contraceptives for a prolonged period of time. Others are genetic or just medical reasons. Let me focus on the women, they are beaten up mostly about it. there are some cases where women are born without a uterus, hit menopause early, have blocked fallopian tubes or have uterus that are shaped in a manner unable to hold a pregnancy. For men they could have a low sperm count, lack sperms completely, have sterile sperms among others. The problem could be anything. Children are a gift but not the entire reason for a marriage. If having a child is something that you truly want there are conventional methods like in vitro fertilization, surrogacy or even adoption.
In this day and age where almost every African has access to mobile phone and a good percentage have data enabled phones which can access the internet, we should not be having learned men making reckless remarks like the one made by Oburu Odinga or individuals who encourage men to leave their wives due to lack of children in their marriage.
Playing the same’ all blame is on the woman’ card is no longer acceptable. Marriage is a covenant between two consenting adults that make the choice to be together through life’s journey.