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.

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

    Call it destiny or whatever, these things are going to happen. You are talking about ideal condition, but not every human being is ideal. In fact nothing is. Think practically. I am not here to favor the act but to favor the girl who has to undergo such thing.

    • Pallav Jain says:

      If you will see my last comment, it says that “No one should be criticized but it is very difficult to make everyone realize this”. I meant that it is nearly impossible to change the thinking of everyone and if that could be done then it will be an ideal condition which i am not talking about.
      I am just saying that from your own end don’t criticize any such unwed mothers. But i will also say that the culture of unwed mothers (whether you name it freedom of thought or democracy or modern culture) is not in the favor of the progress of a community or the country.
      Awareness should be spread to not practice this and at the same time all those unwed mothers who have been suffered by this so called culture should be counseled and yes they SHOULD NOT BE CRITICIZED!

  2. palakmathur says:

    Now can’t agree with you more on this!! Exactly this is what should be done!!

  3. ankitpanch says:

    A SOCIETY WITHOUT CRITICISM, IS LIKE A MAD ELEPHANT WITHOUT ANY ONE TO CONTROL….NOTHING ELSE TO SAY.

  4. veerx1 says:

    See..Indian Society especially in rural areas are very fixed on their beliefs and customs..It’s nearly impossible to change them..A incident like this had happened in our society..There was this beautiful girl from a wealthy family who was in love with an auto-driver and that guy was totaly freak and psycho..He had told her that he has vast property in village and they will not have problems at all..This girl used to bunk her college and practicals and roam with that guy in his rickshaw..They used to regularly have sex in some lodge..She quarreled with her parents about marrying him and she also married him and her own family eventually disowned her..

    Now, It so happened that this guy’s elder brother was a construction/ drain pipe worker, his mother had some mental disorder..I think bipolar..and his father was very old and bedridden..This guy had told the girl that his brother was working at docks in an export-import company…Also this guy was very lazy, he used to work only at evenings and very less in mornings..They had a court-marriage and eventually she went into their house..Now, it so happened that this girl was used to high-lifestyle provided by her parents( her father was businessman)..and this guy had totally lied to her that he has vast property in village..in fact, they were struggling to make ends meet..Neither this girl had a job coz she had married tht guy after her 12th and was without any degree…When she came to know all this, all her dreams shattered..That boy’s mother had put very much restrictions on her like not going out at all and she used to give the reason that her beauty makes old men and young teenagers, shopkeepers look at her…In evenings, the guy’s elder brother used to come inebriated and sometimes even molest her like holding her from back, making her drink his half-finished tea…More shocking is that, the mother used to tell the girl that her elder son has some problems so he cant marry and also they dont have much money..She used to tell the girl that her elder son finds her very beautiful and desires a child from her..She opposed but eventually she got impregnated by him..(the girl’s husband had also agreed to this act)..Now she has two babies, one from her husband and other from her husband’s elder brother..

    All her “high-class” friends broke friendship with her..and she was all alone..She could not do anything because she had mutually tied the knot with him…Later this family shifted somewhere in Bihar…The last incident I remember about her was that one of her friends had sent her a gift on her birthday..the guy’s mother was shouting at her in full public, near the doorstep that “which man has given you this.?..You started bedding old men too..?”..After this incident they shiifted..

    I used to think, what happened was very wrong but then one day, I placed myself in her parent’s place..
    Just think..what about those parents who gave her education and good life..?..wasn’t it their love..?..Didn’t they had dreams making her a good citizen and giving her a good life..?..
    This girl also has a younger sister who has completed software engineering…and her parents are very proud of her..

    Now, Dont you think that this elder girl should have atleast checked the background of the boy and his family…Is it that before you start a relationship, you do it blindly without knowing anything..If this is the case, you are the biggest fool who is laying a trap for yourself and by yourself..
    And many people will tell..”Love is blind, we dint think of it.”..Then whats the use of your love if you cant give a thought to your future with that person..?..Does “love” make you so blind that you dont even see your parent’s expectations, who have strived so hard to give the life you desire.?

    Generally the society thinks that, interacting with such people puts a bad effect on their children, they think that their “ideals” and “values” get challenged..

    What I think important is first, both girls and boys should focus on establishing their career base..You make friendships and relationships but should know where to draw the line..
    Since these days, teens are getting into an endless cycles of relationships, heartbreaks which has a damaging effect on their mentality in their creative years..It is important that awareness about these issues needs to be spread at school level.

    Government should prevent the sale of oral contraceptives..They should only be given through consultation with a medical practitioner and should only be given on a clear, verified prescription…This may prevent the incidences of pre-marital sex among teens which is worrying concern for today’s parents..

    Also, Parents should regularly keep a check on what their children are doing..Inquire with his teachers and friends…especially young girls since they and their families are ultimate sufferers in case a tragedy like this occur…Parents should discuss these topics with children and may even take help of a counsellor if they find it embarassing..It is very important because at that stage, the child is more receptive to the vibes of the world..both good and bad..

    The bad vibes are easy to catch since they are accelerated by many factors like peer pressure, competition etc..It is essential to build up a strong value system..

    Also strict punishments should be declared on those who cheat young girls by faking promise of marriage..if convicted, Some part of their property should be given to the victims and money required for her treatment should be made to be funded by the accused..

    All the above measures will ensure that the problem of “unwed mothers” is stemmed from the root and prevent girls from being victims of social and cultural stigma..

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