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Childless Marriages and Child adoption among the Igbo

John Kachikwulu Ekwunife

At the heart of every marriage union among the Igbo people of Nigeria is the desire to have one’s own children, preferably male ones who will perpetuate the family name from generation to generation. Hence, no stone is left unturned to make sure that this aim is achieved in marriage. Oftentimes, this desire, despite every effort, is not realized by every married couple. Some marriages still remain childless. The precolonial Igbo were also confronted with childless marriages. But knowing the consequences of a childless marriage, they designed some methods of circumventing the problem. Almost all the methods they employed to make sure that no man died childless, which are extensively discussed in this work, are condemned by the Catholic Church. The Church proffered child adoption among other things as a solution to infertility in marriage. Child adoption, however, is frowned upon by some Igbo on the ground that it is against their culture. This situation, therefore, places some Igbo childless couples who want to remain faithful to the Christian faith on a crossroad of not knowing what to do in the face of infertility. The present work deals extensively on the meaning and ends of marriage among the Igbo people of Nigeria, on what it means to be childless among the Igbo, and on how the precolonial Igbo handled the situation as well as the importance of children in the Igbo family. The Church’s teaching on marriage before and after the Second Vatican Council and especially on childless marriages as found in Gaudium et spes is also discussed in a very elaborate way. Other important topics discussed in this work include the Church`s position on artificial reproductive technologies (ART); the meaning of child adoption; and the Igbo people`s knowledge, attitude, and perception about the practice of child adoption.

This work argues strongly that child adoption is something good and noble when it aims at the welfare of the child but at the same time not relegating the welfare of the adoptive parents to the background.

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