systemhalted by Palak Mathur

Social and Cultural Stigma - Unwed Mothers

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. When I read the complete letter, I found that my friend’s sister had a physical relationship with some guy and her mom had somehow came to know about it.

I also know few girls who became pregnant before marriage. In my very first job, I had a colleague who got pregnant in an affair. She knew who the guy was and after some hassle between the 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 and qualms of being an unwed pregnant or unwed mother.

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.”

To be single and specially an unwed mother is taken as that you are available or easy to gain access to. Furthermore, what is more critical 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 certifies and legally justifies the physical intimacy between a man and a woman? The issue is that this is a man-led 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 to the outside world, 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.

Edited on 5th of May 2009

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 but 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.

Social Issues