Misery of Empty Laps: Life of childless women in Bangladesh

Keywords:

Infertility, childless, Bangladesh, resilience, consequence, women

P. NAHAR

Research Fellow, Department of Anthropology, Durham University, Durham, DH1 3LE, United Kingdom.

Correspondence at: papreen.nahar@durham.ac.uk

Abstract

This research deals with the experience of childless women of Bangladesh, who are marginalised by a culture which idealises motherhood and are excluded from the mainstream discussion on women’s health. By presenting the lives of these childless women through my research I hope to bring their hidden suffering to the surface and make their voices
heard. The research was conducted with an ethnographic approach with feminist views. The study reveals that rural people view infertility more as a social rather than a health problem, such that not having children determines a woman as stigmatised, insignificant in a patriarchal society like Bangladesh. My study also reveals that these women are suffering alone – socially, psychologically, as well as economically. No public service is available for the rural poor. Predominantly rural women are in the hunt for treatment from various traditional healers, where mystery and miracle plays an important role. Only private sector provides expensive reproductive infertility interventions in the urban areas for the middle class in which success rate and quality of services are not monitored adequately. Both urban and rural women experience bodily harm, negative psychological effects and exploitation as treatment consequences. Neither health authorities nor legal bodies are concerned about the childless women’s wellbeing. Yet the women resist this negligence towards them, for in various ways they create a space for themselves to survive in their families and in society . However, compared to the extreme scale of hampering wellbeing the everyday form of resistance among childless women is trivial.