From her childhood, she was told, “One day ,a prince will come who will marry you. The one who will be with you always.” Since then, even the thought of marriage made her full of curiosity. The years passed; she waited for news of her Prince Charming; and then she received the news. But the ‘news’ was that she had a medical issue due to which she couldn’t conceive.
She had all the qualities which society wants—she was beautiful, well-versed in household chores, educated, and ‘homely’. But she was rejected by all the people who came to see her for “rishta“. They all left saying “Your daughter is incomplete.”
The institution of marriage runs on patriarchal societal norms which say, motherhood and marriage are co-related and interdependent. Marriage entails procreation, and only procreation within marriage is considered to be socially legitimate.
Once you are married, you have to procreate. After all, it is procreation which makes a “complete woman”, and only a woman who can procreate can make a family. This perspective makes “procreation” the eligibility criteria for entering into the societal institution of marriage.
In such contexts, women who cannot procreate, due to their “medical reasons”, are simply debarred from entering into the institution of marriage. What option are they given? T marry someone who is divorced or widowed and already has kids? The problem, society says, lies with the woman because she cannot procreate, and women who cannot procreate cannot carry on the family lineage. They will not be accepted by any family.
In such a gender-biased society as ours, a widowed or divorced man with kids can easily find a woman, but unmarried women with infertility as a “defect” will not be able to find men who will accept them as a “life partner.”
Society sees infertility as a severe defect which surpasses the identity and individuality of women. You are socially stigmatised, and often looked down because you ‘lack’ something. You are considered inauspicious and often you are not invited to ceremonies like “godh bhar aye.” Because you are “not blessed with the gift of motherhood” and you become the evil eye for any “expecting mother.” In this case, the situation of women who, after marriage, are diagnosed with infertility is far worse, because they are either divorced or asked to go for surrogacy, that too only if the husbands and their concerned families are ready for it, irrespective of what the women themselves want. Such women’s are debarred from their in-laws’ homes because of their “incompleteness” and “defect”.
A woman who can procreate has to get married because ‘she is a woman’ and every woman has to get married in order to produce children for her husband’s family. Irrespective of her choice whether she wants to get married or not, whether she wants to have children or not, it is her ‘duty’. It is for this purpose alone that she was brought in, by her in-laws, and even her own family. While a women who have been diagnosed with infertility are prohibited from entering the institution of marriage, irrespective of the fact that they may want to get married, they cannot serve the “purpose” of getting married and fulfill the duties of an ideal woman, because they cannot produce any children.
In both cases, a woman’s choice is suppressed under the norms of the patriarchal system which regulates the life circle of a woman. Decisions of who is allowed to marry and who is not is based on the procreative abilities of each woman. It is the procreation which becomes the reason for accepting as well as the reason for rejecting women. Women’s own individuality is submerged under the societal norm—the essentiality of attaining motherhood.
The point is why is a woman’s identity limited to motherhood? Why are women seen in terms of only procreative responsibilities? A marriage needs to be a union of two people, two souls; but for society, a marriage needs to be a union of “perfectly fertile bodies” for carrying forward the lineage of the family.