The Ghanaian society is typically harsh towards the young single mother. She is presumed to have been promiscuous and reckless enough to conceive a child out of wedlock. Most mothers are not open to be in-laws with a woman with a ‘born one’. Their son shouldn’t take on the responsibility for the woman’s missteps. The stigma lingers on but it begins to wear off when the woman decides to ignore the reproach and live her life according to her own terms.
Some get fortunate and find men who would be willing to marry them and cater for the child as their own. Because of society’s perception of such women, sometimes the men take on the mentality of doing the woman a favor by marrying her. Unfortunately, the once single woman sometimes enters the marriage with the same mentality and thus is at the mercy of the husband. She would do anything to remain in the husband’s good graces sometimes to the detriment to her child.
When a man marries a woman who is already a mother; that should legally make him the father of the child, right? He should love the child and take care of him like it’s his, right? Unfortunately, that’s contrary to how some stepfathers see the child. Because he didn’t biologically father the child in question, he views the ward as an outsider who often becomes a victim of sexual assault.
Some mothers may be too busy playing wife that they don’t notice what may be going on between the husband and the child or maybe they do see or know of it but choose to look the other way. If the daughter doesn’t gather the courage to tell her that she is being abused by her stepfather, she pretends not to know. And even if she does, she shuts her up saying she’s just making it up; and if she knows what’s good for her, she’d quit with the claims and try to live peacefully with him.
There have been countless stories about stepfathers sexually assaulting and impregnating their stepdaughters in Ghana sometimes to the knowledge of the mother. Most of the time, justice is served on the behalf of the vulnerable minors. But sometimes, such shameless men get to walk free thanks to the testimony of the mothers of the victims.
I understand the tendency to feel like you’ve been showed some favor by being married off with your child coming along to your matrimonial home. But to defend his action of physically abusing and emotionally and psychologically damaging your flesh and blood just so you can remain in his good graces and continue to be his wife sounds like utter betrayal to the child.
I’ve heard of the philosophy that the priority of any married couple should be each other before the children come in. They are just guests; they would leave so what matters is the two people in the marriage. But in this case, is it right for a woman to stand by her husband though he has hurt her child?
I’d love for you to share your thoughts. If you were in the shoes of the mother, what would you deem more important, your marriage or your child’s wellbeing? Would you defend him if he physically and psychologically abuses your child? Do you think it’s a fair price to pay for having been married even though you are taking care of another man’s child? Kindly share your thoughts.
© Josephine Amoako 2016