Male and Female He Created Them. And So, What’s Gender Got To Do With It?

Bose’s phone call came exactly 10 minutes after we received her text message. The message had come 9.25pm while we were preparing to round up the days activities with a sweet nap. It sounds exhilarating and reads ‘I finally made it.’ What did she make? We were just pondering and quizzing.

Has she got a job in an oil company or better still a political appointment? No, it can’t be because she had told us of her intention to go back to the campus for a graduate degree in order to enhance her CV.

Though 3 months have gone since the last time we had a lengthy conversation on the phone. We needed to call her to share in her joy, we agreed. Just before we could reach for the phone, her call landed. She couldn’t hold it any longer. 10 minutes was too long to share the source of her joy. She really made it!

In a typical ‘mama na boy o’ she informed us of the latest addition to her family. A bouncing baby boy. The fact that we had been in oblivion of her pregnancy was not as shocking as the risk she took trying to have another baby after her near death experience in delivering her forth child, her forth daughter in her 7 years of marriage. In order to save her life then, the baby was evacuated in the 28th week of the pregnancy and it was a miracle that they both survived. A divine intervention indeed. She knew how much we would have been concerned for her health and that informed her to deliberately conceal this from us.

Bose is a second degree cousin of mine who is married to Nnamdi (not real name) in a well attended cross cultural wedding ceremony after her parents reluctantly consented to it. She was 31 years old when the nuts were tied and she was blessed to have a female daughter within a year of marriage. Barely two year after, she had a set of female twins and in the fifth year, two years ago, Chinwe was delivered prematurely.

Nnamdi is the only son of his parents, he has one elder sister and a younger one. Since his father died about 6 years ago, his mother has moved to reside with one of his sisters in Lagos, the same city Nnamdi lives with his family.

Bose’s home became a hell! With the consent of her husband, she was subjected to an overwhelming pressure by her in-laws save for her husband’s junior sister who reasoned with her that she couldn’t be blamed for not having a male child. She was presented with choosing either to have a son as if she has a factory that produces male children or have her husband marry another wife.

To them, it was a taboo for the only man in the family not to have a male child who will keep the family name. Nnamdi even claimed that it is a curse for a family to have 3 female children in a row let alone 4 in their case. Little wonder Bose felt on top of the world to announce the birth.

Bose had elected to give it another shot just in an attempt to save her marriage. She would try again even at the expense of her wellbeing.

The tale of Bose is not a strange case, it is a story many can tell. It is a fact many women in some parts of the world (especially in Africa) have had to live with. Women are often blamed when things go wrong in the family. It is frequently assumed that the problem is with the wife when the family has a reproductive issue or an all single sex offspring. Many men capitalise on this to embrace polygamy.

Due to the increasing effect of education, family planning and the crushing economic situation, many families (especially the educated and the urban) are choosing to have fewer children. Nigeria currently has total fertility rate (TFR) of 4.91 (falling below 5 for the first time since records are taken) which means an average of 4.91 children per a woman who lives to the end of her childbearing years.

While the TFR has been declining over the years, most families with all single sex (all male or all female) children still continue to have more than their planned number of children, all in the name of trying to have a male or a female child. Typically, there is more pressure on a family with all female children to have a male child like in this story than with the other category.

Nigeria, being a patrilineal society, most parents are biased to having at least a male child in the family to keep the family’s name running while the foremost reason in craving for female children is the sentiment that they are more caring for the parents in their old age.

It may not be totally out of place if one has a preference for a particular sex (after all, we all do have different proclivities for everything in life) but it is absolutely wrong when this is taken to an extreme such that one refuses to accept the gift of God for which he cannot do anything to change. Men must learn to accept whatever God gives. In this sense, men are not the only guilty party, women are also culpable.

Adekunle is a chartered accountant married to Ebun a secondary school teacher. They had planned to have three children. When their first three children were all male, she insisted they must have another who was also a male. They had yet another male and still another male. After 6 male children, she was not ready to let go of her dream of having a female child until her husband threatened to abscond from the matrimonial home.

In a patrilineal society like ours, preference for a male child is also borne out of the belief that men are superior to women, and that they will acquire more power, authority, wealth, influence, success, education and fame than a woman. Traditionally, this was true to an extent (even globally) because in the past, the society used to give very little opportunities to women to achieve their potentials. They were less educated and hardly given any chance in the male dominated world.

In some parts of our society, some still live with the myth that the birth of a male child is a sign of strength on the side of the father.

Universally, in the last 50 years, there has been a huge leap in the roles women play in the society. Also in Nigeria, women have shown that if given equal opportunity as the men, they can be equally as productive and resourceful as the male counterparts and possibly better.

As more women are educated and allowed to serve, we have seen them excel in their chosen careers and occupations. Women have served in the highest political and diplomatic offices all around the world. Though Nigeria is yet to have a female president, women have been presidents or prime ministers in countries like India, Israel, Sri Lanka, UK, Portugal, Norway, Philippines, Pakistan, Lithuania, Latvia, Finland, Nicaragua, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Liberia, New Zealand, Ukraine, Germany, Iceland, Argentina etc.

There is no doubt that Nigerian women have made significant progress in political, economic and cultural life at all levels. Our women have recorded successes in different spheres of life occupying exalted positions. We have had a female governor – Dame Virginia Ngozi Etiaba (Anambra, November 2006 to February 2007); female deputy governors in states like Plateau, Imo, Osun, Ogun, Lagos and Anambra, female vice-chancellors – Prof. Grace Awani Alele-Williams – first female professor of mathematics education in 1974 and first female Vice-Chancellor (University of Benin) of an African university in 1985; Prof. Jadesola Akande (late), first female Professor of law in Nigeria and the former vice chancellor of the Lagos State University; civil service administrators like Mrs. Ebele O. Okeke, first ever female Head of Service of the Federation, Justice Aloma Mariam Mukhtar and Justice Olufunlola Oyelola Adekeye – both supreme court justices, Senators, Representatives, Ministers, Commissioners, LGA administrators, CEOs and ED of banks and businesses, Professors, Administrators, successful show business practitioners, pilots and Scholars. Women have also succeeded at the highest level of various professions and have headed professional bodies like ICA

N, NBA etc. Most of these women attain these height balancing their occupational task with the family demands of making homes and raising children. Great strength indeed!

“If you want anything said, ask a man. If you want something done, ask a woman.” – Margaret Thatcher.

Considering this, it can no more be presupposed that a female child will achieve less than the male child when they grow up. Similarly, there is no established proof that a female child will take better care of the aged parents. This does not depend on the gender of the child rather on a combination of other factors. A child who is well brought up by his/her parents in a serene family atmosphere and with the fear of God will naturally be there for the parents when the need arises. Other factors like available resources (finance), occupational climate, personal commitments and the child’s nuclear family’s disposition do play a lot.

He created them male and female and blessed them. And when they were created, he called them “man.” Genesis 5:2

Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him. Psalm 127:3

A female child is a blessing from God as much as a male child. All female children are equally God’s blessing as much as all male or male/female children. Nobody is to be blamed for the sex of a child because it is beyond human power to decide the sex of a child. Every child must be appreciated as a special gist from God.

Genetically, females have two of the same kind of sex chromosome (XX), and are called the homogametic sex. Males have two distinct sex chromosomes (XY), and are called the heterogametic sex., the Y chromosome contains a gene, SRY (which is a sex-determining gene) which triggers embryonic development as a male. So it is the Y chromosome in man that determines the sex of the child. This simply mean that it is what comes out of a man that determines the sex of a child even though man cannot influence it.

Why should Nnamdi cause Bose to risk her life because of a gender issue? Why should some other women have to go through similar painful experience and hurt? How many women would have died in the process of trying to have a male or a female child when they could have accepted and be grateful for what they had? And why didn’t Nnamdi and Bose explore another option – adoption?

Bose was lucky to make it as she claimed in her text message, not everyone was! So whatz gender got to do with it?

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