While pronatalism remains a powerful social and cultural force around the world, we are seeing signs of global cracks in the armor. Take India and Africa.
In India, in recent years we have seen more publications discussing the idea of foregoing parenthood. A very recent example includes The Times of India’s “Soul Curry” section, which showcases “real life soul-stirring” experiences. In her lovely piece, “Being Childless by Choice in the Indian Society,” Neha Gupta writes about her experience of being a woman with no children by choice in India. She lives in a culture that has traditionally worshiped motherhood, but talks about how with her generation this is changing – that they understand the reality that “not becoming parents, is a choice, a preference.”
Like with many men and women in just about every culture who have no children, she has experienced challenges, some of them even a bit crazy. A neighbor of Neha’s went as far to conclude that the reason she was “cursed” and did not have babies was because she sterilized her golden retriever! Neha writes how, “in due course,” she told herself the decision to have no children “did not require justification of any sort on [her] behalf to the society, and that [she] did not owe any explanation to anyone.” Amen.
In addition to seeing more pieces in media publications that discuss topics relating to pronatalist assumptions, in recent years we have also seen more research being done in India on the changing attitudes about parenthood being a given in life. In this vein, Amrita Nandy’s research stands out, and I look forward to her forthcoming book that will challenge pronatalist thinking about motherhood.
We are seeing more excellent pieces coming out of Africa as well. I have been interviewed for a number of articles in women’s magazines in South Africa in the last few years, and asked about issues related to pronatalism. Online, I continue to see a growing number of voices coming to the fore.
One voice from the very recent piece by Adebisi Adewusi on the site, African Feminism (AF), succinctly makes the point that “…we as young African women have come to the conclusion that we do not have to follow the steps of our mothers. We now realise that own our bodies and get to decide what to do with it.” She makes no bones about the reality that “we are simply women who recognize that the decision to have children or not lies in our hands and not with parents, aunties, in-laws, pastors or imams.”
These illustrate a sliver of the examples I see out there from many countries on pronatalism-related topics. My bet: we will continue to see more of this.