Infertility has been a major medical and social preoccupation since the dawn of human existence and women have always been the symbol of fertility. Since antiquity, couples have been prolific and difficulty with conception was a real problem.
To be childless in India is almost a curse. Most couples feel their bodies have let them down, their doctors have let them down and finally God has let them down.
Given the importance of childbearing in Indian society, women who are unable to bear children for whatever reasons must suffer the consequences, which can be severely damaging both physically and emotionally. The infertile woman may be beaten up by her husband and in-laws for her inability to bear children, and may be deprived of basic amenities like food and healthcare. Infertility destroys a woman’s self-esteem and makes her feel incomplete and inadequate.
Indeed, the biggest problem with infertility in India is the tremendous social stigma it carries. To cure this some do the rounds of temples, give up smoking as a penance, conduct havans, pujas and pilgrimages. One woman, who married into a small community of goldsmiths in Bikaner, was repeatedly shown to local ‘babajis’, beaten with peacock feathers, forced to go on fasts, plant flags in strange places and even feed a particular black dog with a chapaati for a month. Many contemplate suicide, divorce or remarriage.