Pakistan’s Deep-rooted Stigma Around Male Infertility

Despite 50% of infertility cases being associated with male infertility, the phenomenon remains to be stigmatized largely in Pakistan.

What is male infertility?

Male infertility is a medical condition in which the chances of a male getting a female pregnant is low. Illnesses, injuries, lifestyle options and other health problems play a huge role in causing male infertility

Male infertility has become increasingly common with approximately 50% of infertility cases being related to males. In males, the issue may arise because of:

  1. Decreased number of sperm
  2. Sperm that aren’t formed currently, or at all
  3. The sperm is prevented from being released or reaching an egg.

Although infertility is a major medical frontier with 21.9% of the Pakistani male population experiencing it, it remains to be an under-researched part of the insemination equation. This results in various myths escalating and suggesting the woman be somehow responsible for the phenomenon. Socially, reproduction has been framed to be solely a female related issue, which also a result of under-research and lack of attention being diverted towards males when studying the problem.

Social structures built around masculinity expect men to be sexually active and robust, ignoring all recurrent medical phenomenon. Conflating masculinity with fertility is a fundamental issue.

In many cultures like ours, male infertility remains to be a stigmatized condition, questioning a man’s “manliness’. This is why after diagnosis of the issue, males often choose to remain confidential about it to the extent that often females take the blame for the disability regardless of whether she is infertile or not. Furthermore, in a study, it was found that male infertility is associated with sexual disorders more than female infertility. Although infertility isn’t directly proportional to sexual potency, the two are commonly associated and believed to be synonymous as the inability to have a child and sexual dysfunction have surrounded stereotypical masculinity.

The pain men suffer from not being able to build a family, is undermined, explaining why many choose to remain private about it. Their voices are needed in discussions where infertility is discussed, this is imperative as several cross-cultural studies have proven that men belonging to societies where the phenomenon isn’t stigmatized indicate lower levels of psychological effects whereas men belonging to South Asian societies are victims to shame, guilt, and loneliness.

After being diagnosed with infertility, the quality of life for a lot of couples becomes poor with many becoming suicidal or suffering from other mental health issues. There are treatments available including IVF and other methods. There is a need for support groups and counselling service for those undergoing treatment, and for whom treatment didn’t work.

Although the issue of infertility largely surrounds females as ultimately it is them who conceive or not, the guilt men feel for being the reason they cannot impregnate their partner with their biological child is significantly devastating.

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