That Igbo custom states that the only way a man can be the father of a child is by marrying the child’s mother. If a man gets a single girl pregnant, her child belongs to her father. If a man gets a married woman (or a woman who is separated from her husband) pregnant, the child belongs to her husband.
As a man, if you need a child, go and marry. Period.
If you get a single girl pregnant or a married woman pregnant, you have simply donated your sperm for traditional IVF. Thanks for your generosity! Even if the child is your carbon copy, it is not yours. You are simply what is called: Mkpi na-agbalụ ọha eghu (the he-goat that services the she-goats of the community!).
In fact, in the distant past, if you got a girl pregnant and wanted to marry her, that baby would no longer be yours. You have to wait for her to deliver, nurse the baby, leave the baby with her mother or sister to look after before becoming your wife. The first baby is not yours because you got her pregnant before marrying her. So you have no claim on the baby. Marriage is the certification needed for fatherhood.
I get angry anytime a man gets a single girl pregnant or even a married woman pregnant, then stays away for the child to be raised, only to appear years after when the child is grown up, and proudly shouts: “Give me MY child. I won’t leave without MY child.”
Your child my foot! How much does semen cost? Pay him for the sperm donation and send him away!
This Igbo custom on the paternity of a child
- confers honour on marriage
- creates the spirit of responsibility in men
- makes men to respect women and avoid exploiting them
- protects the child from being raised by an incapable father who may be a teenager or an apprentice or a vagabond or playboy
If a woman is good enough to be slept with, she should be good enough to be a wife. If you don’t like a woman, don’t get her pregnant. If you don’t see the woman as good enough to be your wife, then she should not be good enough to have a child for you. If you don’t want a woman, please don’t want her child. If you are not ready to be a husband, then you should not be ready to be a father. If you want a child, get married. Simple.
It is sad that this Igbo custom on child paternity is being eroded because of modernity and borrowed customs. The cultural consciousness among Igbos is low. In the name of modernity, Igbos are too quick to adopt Western ways and other people’s way of life, without bothering to do a SWOT analysis on their own first to confirm if it has great advantages that will make their society more stable.
Written by Azuka Onwuka.