Social and Cultural Stigma – Unwed Mothers and Teenage Pregnancy

Mothers’ day has just passed and I was thinking about this topic. Over the time I have seen many girls and ladies (I will not disclose the names) who have become pregnant before marriage and few of them had teenage pregnancy. I will not discuss how they became pregnant as we all know it is one weak moment that may lead to such a stage.  I am here to discuss social stigma that they face after this act.

Some years ago I visited a friend. He was not at home when I reached there.  His mother was writing a letter, and I could sense that she was troubled. Obviously the content of the letter was disturbing her. She left it unfinished on the table to get a glass of water for me. I don’t know what came over me, but curiosity got the better of me. Battling with my conscience, I couldn’t help but peak at the letter which was troubling my friend’s mother so much. It was addressed to my friend’s sister. I found out that my friend’s sister had an affair with some guy; she got physically involved too and her mother observed that from the strange way in which she was walking.

I also know a few girls who became pregnant before marriage. In my very first job, I had a colleague who was having an affair with someone and eventually got pregnant. She asked the guy for commitment and then after resolving certain issues with parents they got married. Her story had a happy ending, but there are many who are not that lucky and have to bear the pains of being an unwed pregnant or unwed mother as the blame inevitably rests on them. 

The social stigma associated with being an unwed parent is so much that it may lead some women to attempt or commit suicide. In our social setup, pregnancy outside marriage is considered a humiliation that will affect not only the mother but also her family. Such a woman is ostracized in most of our Indian Societies. The immediate family and extended family, which should provide social protection to mothers to be, leave them alone considering them social and financial burden.

According to a research conducted by a Colombo-based lawyer,

“The single women both at home and at the work place have to face many physical advances from men young and old, married and unmarried. In our interviews these women found it difficult to discuss these sexual advances.”

Single girls or unwed mothers are considered as ‘available’ or someone easy to gain access to. Another critical issue is that the responsibility of a child born outside marriage rests solely on the mother. The lack of support from family, relatives, society, etc makes her living quite hard and sometimes unbearable.

In present context I think unwed mother is a hype that can be ignored.  A physical relationship before marriage is considered a bane while after marriage ethical. So, what exactly marriage is? Does it merely certify and legally justify the physical intimacy between a man and a woman? The issue is that ours is a man-lead society, a male-dominated society which conforms to the traditional role of women in society. In this society, a male can get away with a physical relationship and no one will blame him. But since the female has to undergo physical and biological changes, which are visible, they suffer most of the qualms, fears, and misgivings. 

The time has come that we should start working on lessening the social stigma related to unwed pregnancy so that these mothers to be may live a life without any social and financial burden. They must be forwarded more support and belief so that they may brave against the society which by and large is male-dominated.

Yesterday I was watching Juno, as suggested by one of my friends Jessica. The film is about teenage pregnancy. I liked the attitude of the character Juno. She was worried and tensed but was at ease with her pregnancy. Her family, i.e., her father and step-mom were also relieved that is that is just a pregnancy and their daughter is not taking drugs. 

There are few points that need to be considered:-

1)        One should be careful while getting into a relationship specially a physical relationship. 

2)        I agree that this kind of stigma prevents such incidents to occur, but once it has occurred then acceptance shall be the key especially with respect to the immediate family of the girl. Family should help the girl with her pregnancy rather than boycotting or abusing her. 

3)        Teenage or unwed pregnancy should be taken just as a pregnancy. Support the girl, who is pregnant, she is going to be a ‘Mother’!!!

4)       Teenage pregnancy becomes tricky due to various health reasons. Below 18 years of age an individual is still a child, so is it right for a child to be responsible for another child? So, the teenage pregnancy should not be condemned on moral grounds rather on medical grounds. 

5)        It shall not be considered as a ‘fault’; but even it is that then both the parties are equally responsible for it. So, just because the girl has to carry the evidence of physical involvement in a relationship, she should not be ostracized by the society. 

6)      Use contraceptives.

P.S.: – I think this is enough of writing. Actually we need to do more than just writing.

P.P.S:- Please think about the post

P.P.P.S.:- And let me know your opinion.

17 Responses to “Social and Cultural Stigma – Unwed Mothers and Teenage Pregnancy”
  1. vardhna says:

    There is a huge difference in unwed pregnancy and teenage pregnancy, both being sensitive issues which need to be dealt with utmost care and respect. Condemning either on basis of a moral ground should not be perpetuated in the society. It is a woman’s body and its her choice. But teenage pregnancy becomes tricky due to various health reasons. Below 18 years of age an individual is still a child, so is it right for a child to be responsible for another child? So teenage pregnancy should not be condemned on moral grounds rather on medical grounds. As for physical relationship before marriage should be completely left to an individual.

    • veerx1 says:

      I dont agree at all with you that physical relationship before marriage should be left to an individual..Yes, If the individual is above 18-20, it can be understood…but what if it is a girl of 16-17..?…At that age, should she be concentrating on her career or things like this..?..And is there any parent who would ever want to hear that their daughter is in a physical relationship before marriage..?

      Now, plz dont tell those statements..”we are in a democratic country, we have our rights”
      whats the use of such right that harms the dignity of women..?
      And, whatever the difference be between “unwed pregnancy” and “teenage pregnancy” one here sees the difference, it’s ultimately in both of them that the innocent child has to suffer..

      On one side you say..unwed and teenage pregnancy is “sensitive issue” and on other side you are saying “physical relationship before marriage is left to individual” which itself is a major accelerator for such unwed and teenage pregnancies..

  2. palakmathur says:

    Agree!! Sorry, that I missed that point. Will add this to the post that Teenage pregnancy should not be condemned on moral grounds rather on medical grounds. Agree, physical relationship before marriage is completely a personal choice but one should be careful while indulging in such an act.

  3. Shukrita Mathur says:

    I think this is a very well written blog post. I fully approve of it. It is time for us to stand up for such issues. Being intimate with the opposite sex is not a crime even if you are not married to him/her. A lot of youngsters are into it these days but dont share it with anyone because of its tabboo. i think it should be discussed openly and awareness should be spread about it. I therefore strongly support Palak that awareness should be spread about this topic and unwed mothers should be given full support from their families rather than being outcasted. The people must be taught about sexuality and sex education should be provided. In India, we have been trying to introduce sex education since long, but no real effort has been made so far. I think, that schools should introduce sex-education in their curriculum. This will help young people to understand what is right and what is wrong and why is it so in a better way. The literature available on this topic in market that people resort to in absence of proper material and education is so cheap that it may harm an individual. So, it is better that schools open up themselves on this issue. If they do so, then parents will open up and finally the whole society will. This will take shape gradually, but to reach that state, we need to begin somewhere and this is the right time. We are late, but it is better late than never.

    • veerx1 says:

      I dont understand…what all are you posting..?..Plz atleast read it carefully before posting..
      You say that “being intimate with opposite sex is not a crime if he/she is not married”..I agree to it..
      You say, sex-education should be made compulsory..but sex-education itself involves creating awareness about problems of “pre-marital sex” and on the other side you are advocating for “pre-marital sex”..?

      Apart from rapes, isn’t pre-marital sex another major reason for such unwed mothers and pregnancies..??..If no, then tell me according to you, whats the reason..

      In your 4th line, you said to discuss and create awareness…but you are refering to discussing and creating awareness about what..?…About encouraging youngsters to speak and discuss how much partners they had..? it even possible, such discussion with parents..?

      I agree with your statements that unwed mothers should not be treated as outcastes and should be supported..those views are really appreciable..!!

      But, what i want to tell is..rather than reaching to the stage where teenager becomes pregnant…can’t we implement measures and awareness that prohibit factors leading to pre-marital sex..?

  4. Sakshi Mathur says:

    t’s true that females are not safe….Some males think that females are just for a physical relationship; they don’t value women or girls…However, in some case females are also responsible for that…..girls have to be careful while choosing her friends.

  5. palakmathur says:

    True Sakshi, that girls must be careful enough. You are talking about precautions and I am talking about aftermaths of such happenings.

  6. Pallav Jain says:

    Marriage basically ties you to a committed relationship with a partner so that you spend your whole life with that person only without even thinking of any other partner. When we talk about unwed mothers then it is not only the fault of the girl but the man is equally responsible for the same.
    This culture of unwed mothers is not acceptable because it is most likely that the man leaves the lady after his bodily desire is fulfilled and then the girl has to suffer. With getting tied in a knot or in the relationship of husband and wife none of the partners can leave the other one on the fly and without his/her consent.
    in case of unwed mothers culprit are both the partners but since it is the girl who suffers so, it is advised to the ladies to be more vigilant in whom they are showing belief and trust in.

  7. palakmathur says:

    Pallav, I was trying to discuss the aftermath of the act and not the act itself.

  8. Pallav Jain says:

    See, u r trying to discuss the consequences but i wanted to talk about precautions so that this stage of facing the consequences never comes.

  9. palakmathur says:

    But still, we all know what precautions should be taken. But what will you do if such thing occur and are bound to happen as we all are human.

  10. Pallav Jain says:

    That’s (bound to happen as we all are humans) the wrong thinking we have. Truth is that we all are humans and so are prudential enough to judge what is right and what is wrong. In actual things are bound to happen but not because we all are humans but because those are destined!!
    I know no one should be criticized but it is very tough to make people realize this.

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