INFERTILITY: SOCIETY ALWAYS PROTECTS MEN
TRADITION and society have always favored men whenever a woman fails to conceive in a marriage.
Blame is normally shifted to the woman but it’s not the case with Peter.
His sad script is that of a tormented soul which is living in shame after accidental revelations about the true biological identity of his “son”.
“I had never worn a mask before 2015. I was an outgoing, confident person and living life without a care in the world,” chronicles one Peter.
However, life took a sudden turn when medical interventions to cure his then sick son revealed his worst nightmare.
“I only came to know about my condition when the child I thought was mine for the better part of my life was proved otherwise during his sick days.
“I got married in 2009 and had a baby a year later. I cared for the child just like a father can do but unbeknown to me, my own relatives had their reservations, arguing among themselves that the child’s features were not mine,” he says.
Peter said it was during that sick period when doctors requested for his blood samples as they wanted to help the sick child and that’s when all hell broke loose.
“The blood could not match and I could not stomach it when my wife admitted that the child was from her previous relationship. That is when I got to know of my condition,” he added.
Peter’s case is not in isolation as there are several men out there who bore the same predicament but fail to openly discuss it because of stigma and fear to be labeled.
Infertility is a condition resulting from abnormal functioning of the reproductive system according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Family Health Director in the Ministry of Health and Child Care Dr. Bernard Madzima says there are a plethora of issues that can lead to infertility in men.
“Infertility can be congenital, meaning a person can be born with the anomaly but in most cases, it is caused by infections.
“Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI’s) ranks among the leading cause of infertility and also other chronic conditions like diabetes mellitus,” he says.
He also went on to add that exposure to toxins can also cause infertility.
“Exposure to toxins like smoking, radiation, alcohol and even blocked sperm ducts can be other causes and the issues are broad.”
To some in this country especially among the older generation infertility is a “shame” among men and its treatment is still not widely accepted.
Other societies regard as a curse while in some beliefs it’s more than a bad omen.
For these men, it could mean jeopardizing their marriage and even their well-being since it lowers one’s esteem.
It is no exception given the conservative nature of the society in Zimbabwe where the issue takes on another dimension because of the social stigma attached to infertility.
Peter says he spent most of his 30s trying to have a child with different women and the failure to do so left him depressed, sometimes in tears, and “hiding under the duvet”.
“It’s like a judgment on your masculinity.
“You do feel like less of a man and that failure made me paranoid, frustrated, envious and angry.”
He describes the mindless banality of going along to fertility clinics and giving sperm samples, but also the nervous feeling that he had to give it his best shot.
“I remember going to see the doctor to get the announcement of the test and hoping that it wasn’t me.
“But the doctor told me I’ve got no sperm. You can’t have a family. That was just a five minute-conversation I remember clearly,” says Peter.
According to a study by Ms Stancia Moyo of the University of Zimbabwe’s Centre for Population Studies says over 50 percent of infertility issues among the 10 percent of couples that experience such are a result of male infertility.
For a long time, culture compounded with religion especially in developing countries have been blaming women for failure to have children and they have always been stigma attached to it.
Commenting on the issue of infertility among men, a traditional healer Mbuya Martha Katsande argues that while there were issues of men who were infertile before, nowadays the cases are now in the open because they are no longer receiving traditional medication from their uncles.
“When we grew up, we used to know that boys and men would get medicines from their uncles during matare and these medicines would strengthen their back as well as their sperms.
“But due to the fact that they are no more matures these days, it now appears as if this challenge only started recently,” she says.
Dr Madzima said people can actually get help by having sperm analysis and other treatments like biopsy for further analysis.
“Affected individuals can have their sperms collected for analysis and also biopsy analysis can be done.
“There is no fear of not having children since there are many options for the sperms to be harvested for childbearing,” he concludes.