97. Nahar, P, Richters, A

Nahar, P, Richters, A.

Suffering of childless women in Bangladesh: the intersection of social identities of gender and class. Anthropology & Medicine, Vol. 18, No. 3, December 2011, 327–338


Research has documented that, around the world, women who are childless against their will suffer from an array of social, economic and emotional difficulties. The causes of this suffering are primarily related to their gender position in society and their gender identity. This paper addresses the impact of class differences on the gender-related suffering of childless women in the socially very hierarchically structured society of Bangladesh. The main method was gathering life histories of illiterate rural poor childless women and educated urban middle-class childless women. The rural childless women experience strong stigma in society, as their identity is devalued due to their inability to produce children. As a result, they suffer from feelings of guilt, role failure, loss of self-esteem, abandonment by the family, social isolation, and impoverishment. In contrast, because of their relatively high socio-economic status and good educational background, urban childless women have more opportunities to avail themselves of alternative social identities and thus avoid social isolation. Despite these differences, both groups of women lead frustrated lives, burdened with a deep sense of guilt for not being able to produce children.