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Childlessness: perceptions, acceptability and the gender dimension

Latifat D. G. Ibisomi, University of the Witwatersrand
Netsayi Noris Mudege

Childlessness has major psychological and social implications for affected people in settings where fertility is highly valued. Regardless of the cause, social and gender norms often blame the woman for childlessness. In some cultures, the childless male may also suffer some forms of trauma and stigma. However, infertility – a key cause of childlessness - has received little attention in developing countries as current programs are largely focused on population control. Using narratives of childless individuals and their communities, this paper explores people’s perceptions of infertility with particular focus on three themes: (1) perceptions over intentional and unintentional childlessness, (2) perceptions on when childlessness is acceptable and when it is not and (3) gender implications of childlessness. The paper relies on data collected from 24 focus group discussion with men and women in Nigeria. The policy and programme implications of findings are discussed.

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Presented in Session 114: Infertility and secondary sterility