Male perspectives on infertility and assisted reproductive technologies (ART) in sub-Saharan contexts

Keywords:

Infertility, male infertility, assisted reproductive technologies, sub-Saharan Africa, Mali

V. HÖRBST

Centro de Estudos Africanos (CEA-ISCTE-IUL), Av. das Forcas Armadas, 1469-026 Lisboa, Portugal.

Correspondence at: viola.hoerbst@iscte.pt

Abstract

To date social science studies on male views of infertility in developing countries are rare. Concerning treatment seeking , literature assessing men´s behaviour from a biomedical point of view underlines bad male compliance with diagnosis and treatment, particularly if men are assumed to be the reason for unwanted childlessness. Summarizing the results of an anthropological research project on infertility and ART in Mali with regard to men this article shows that infertility is a complex problem configuration. Various factors such as the prevailing popular narrative to blame women for involuntary childlessness, alternative social solutions (polygyny), the double threat of demasculisation by male factor infertility and the reproductive aim to continue the patrilineage prefigure which options seem better or worse for men. Given this Malian background, on the one hand, biomedical infertility care renders men vulnerable for public disgrace due to possible evidence of male infertility causes, and thus block avenues for social solutions. On the other hand, biomedical means especially ART increase hope for own biological children, but the outcome of these cost intensive options even if available are not at all certain. In such situations men may prefer not to be involved in biomedical treatments at all and to hide behind the stigmatization of their wives, in order to avoid the risk of being exposed to public disgrace and double demasculinisation in terms of sexuality and of authority over women.