Manhood in African interpretation means the ability of a man to procreate.
A man is not a man unless he can impregnate a woman. A man who can perform in bed (sexually viable) is highly recognized by his male counterparts and the female folk as well. So how does a man explain to his wives that he can no longer father a child? This was the case with Mr Aritowose (not real name) and his wives. He is a trader who is married to three women. They all live in a big compound with separate apartment for each of the women. Mr Aritowose usually called meetings to settle quarrels between his wives or to give a timetable of days that each woman would sleep over in his room. On this day he called a meeting and the women thought it was the usual gist but they were about to receive a shock of their lives. All they heard him saying was that he was pleased to announce that he would no longer be able to get anyone of them pregnant. The women looked at their husband in dis-belief! Seeing that they didn’t understand what he was trying to say, Mr Aritowose stated again that he could no longer father a child and was so pleased with himself. At first one of them broke down in tears, soon the other two joined and they all started wailing. His wives looked at him and expressed emotion that says that their husband had gone Mad! No it was certainly unheard of that a man would announce such a thing with his friends talk more of his wife/wives. It was almost a taboo. Mr Aritowose tried to reassure his wives that he was of a sound mind. Their wailing increased; they knelt down and started begging their husband. The youngest wife asked whether it was a plan hatched to marry a new wife and get rid of them all. Mr Aritowose laughed out aloud and in one sentence said, “I simply decided to plan my family since all of you refused to stop making babies”! The women went silent as the meaning of his words dawned on them. It turned out that Mr Aritowose decided to go for Vasectomy since his wives refused to adopt a family planning method as advised by the local health workers. Ever since health workers had visited their community and explained how family planning helps to improve total family well-being, Mr Aritowose made up his mind to put an end to child bearing in his already large household. He had given his wives money to go for family planning at the local clinic but instead, he had seen them becoming pregnant. New babies were born in his home. Each woman wanted to outdo her rival in the number of children they had for their husband. Frustrated Aritowose visited the clinic himself to ask why his wives were still having babies in spite of the promise family planning methods held. While there he discovered that none of them had visited the clinic to make use of any birth control method. It was then he decided to take his family’s future into his own hands. He wanted to be able to care for his children and send them to school as best as he could. Therefore he opted for the contraceptive method, Vasectomy.
When I initially heard this story though in the real story he hid his choice of vasectomy from the women, I thought it was funny and I actually laughed. However the seriousness of the issue dawned on me. It is quite rare to see a man do what this man had done. It meant that he was serious about creating a better future for his family (children & wives). He was also doing it to give himself a BREAK! I mean it must be a big burden to cater for such a large family. Family planning is usually seen by society as a business for women to take charge of. How many men are actually involved in the business of planning their families? 98% of the family planning methods are for women while only about 2% in my own view is for men. Why do I as a woman have to be the one to swallow pills, get injected, get something inserted into my Virgina or my arm all in the name of not getting pregnant? And all a man had to do is to use a barrier called condom which a number of men don’t even like using. Any talks about getting a permanent method of “killing all the man’s sperm” (Vasectomy) before they are even born is simply cutting his manhood and a taboo to both the men and women folk alike. No one would hear of it. An extended family meeting would be held to prevent such a man from taking such a step and even his wife (in Africa at least from where I am from) will say, “Ma koba mi, ma somi di oloriburuku” (Don’t put me to shame; don’t make me a laughing stock).
So should the choice of using a family planning method be left to a woman while her husband snores away? I believe a man and a woman should discuss and continue to discuss this issue. Some men don’t even know the type of family planning method their wife is using. It’s a case of, “let her just get it done”! A man should care and know about whatever family planning method his wife uses, its side effects, how long it should last, when she is due for a renewal. Knowing all these will help to achieve the desired result of a woman who is a happy user of her family planning method. She would not feel alone in the effort to have a healthier family.
In some cases some women would prefer to use the natural fertility management method known as the Billings Ovulation method if for some health reasons she cannot use any of the modern day method. This method requires that the man cooperates with his wife because it has to do with counting days of her menstrual circle; safe & unsafe days. If the man is not interested, then there is going to be a lot of fights about why she refuses him sex on some days. And eventually unplanned pregnancies will show up. So what I am trying to say is this – men need to be more interested in the family planning methods their spouses use. More male involvement is needed in family planning not necessarily that you must go for a Vasectomy.
By Adebisi Adetunji