Social and Cultural Stigma – Unwed Mothers

Over the time I have seen many girls and ladies (I will not disclose the names) who have become pregnant before marriage and few of them had teenage pregnancy. I will not discuss how they became pregnant as we all know it is one weak moment that may lead to such a stage.  I am here to discuss social stigma that they face after this act.

Some years ago I visited a friend. He was not at home when I reached there.  His mother was writing a letter, and I could sense that she was troubled. Obviously the content of the letter was disturbing her. She left it unfinished on the table to get a glass of water for me. I don’t know what came over me, but curiosity got the better of me. Battling with my conscience, I couldn’t help but peak at the letter which was troubling my friend’s mother so much. It was addressed to my friend’s sister. When I read the complete letter, I found that my friend’s sister had a physical relationship with some guy and her mom had somehow came to know about it.

I also know few girls who became pregnant before marriage. In my very first job, I had a colleague who got pregnant in an affair. She knew who the guy was and after some hassle between the parents they got married. Her story had a happy ending, but there are many who are not that lucky and have to bear the pains and qualms of being an unwed pregnant or unwed mother.

The social stigma associated with being an unwed parent is so much that it may lead some women to attempt or commit suicide. In our social setup, pregnancy outside marriage is considered a humiliation that will affect not only the mother but also her family. Such a woman is ostracized in most of our Indian Societies. The immediate family and extended family, which should provide social protection to mothers to be, leave them alone considering them social and financial burden.

According to a research conducted by a Colombo-based lawyer,

“The single women both at home and at the work place have to face many physical advances from men young and old, married and unmarried. In our interviews these women found it difficult to discuss these sexual advances.”

To be single and specially an unwed mother is taken as that you are available or easy to gain access to. Furthermore, what is more critical is that the responsibility of a child born outside marriage rests solely on the mother. The lack of support from family, relatives, society, etc makes her living quite hard and sometimes unbearable.

In present context I think unwed mother is a hype that can be ignored.  A physical relationship before marriage is considered a bane while after marriage ethical. So, what exactly marriage is? Does it merely certifies and legally justifies the physical intimacy between a man and a woman? The issue is that this is a man-led society, a male-dominated society which conforms to the traditional role of women in society. In this society, a male can get away with a physical relationship and no one will blame him. But since the female has to undergo physical and biological changes which are visible to the outside world, they suffer most of the qualms, fears, and misgivings.

The time has come that we should start working on lessening the social stigma related to unwed pregnancy so that these mothers to be may live a life without any social and financial burden. They must be forwarded more support and belief so that they may brave against the society which by and large is male-dominated.

Edited on 5th of May 2009

Yesterday I was watching Juno, as suggested by one of my friends Jessica. The film is about teenage pregnancy. I liked the attitude of the character Juno. She was worried and tensed but was at ease with her pregnancy. Her family, i.e., her father and step-mom were also relieved that is that is just a pregnancy and their daughter is not taking drugs.

There are few points that need to be considered:-

1)        One should be careful while getting into a relationship specially a physical relationship.

2)        I agree that this kind of stigma prevents such incidents to occur, but once it has occurred then acceptance shall be the key especially with respect to the immediate family of the girl. Family should help the girl with her pregnancy rather than boycotting or abusing her.

3)        Teenage or unwed pregnancy should be taken just as a pregnancy. Support the girl, who is pregnant, she is going to be a ‘Mother’!!!

4)       Teenage pregnancy becomes tricky due to various health reasons. Below 18 years of age an individual is still a child, so is it right for a child to be responsible for another child? So, the teenage pregnancy should not be condemned on moral grounds but on medical grounds.

5)        It shall not be considered as a ‘fault’; but even it is that then both the parties are equally responsible for it. So, just because the girl has to carry the evidence of physical involvement in a relationship, she should not be ostracized by the society.

6)      Use contraceptives.

P.S.: – I think this is enough of writing. Actually we need to do more than just writing.

P.P.S:- Please think about the post

P.P.P.S.:- And let me know your opinion.

42 thoughts on “Social and Cultural Stigma – Unwed Mothers”

  1. Hi Palak,

    well you have picked up quite a relevant issue to write, it is so true, the social ostracism which an unwed mother has to face in our society…we all should actually bow our heads in shame for treating a woman who is about to bring a new life to this earth in such a manner.

    I just couldn’t help but compare and contrast these two movies, Kya Kehna and Juno.
    If u have not seen Juno..pls do …its a must watch.

    The contrast is just too overwhelming…Juno’s parents were actually relieved to know that their daughter is ‘just pregnant’ and she is not involved in drugs n stuff. Her own father helps her to find foster parents for the child yet to be born.

  2. Thanks for reading the post. This issue has been there since ages and have been discussed ‘n’ number of times. But the society had never changed. It will take some more time for a change to come and even more in Indian Society. Lets wait an d watch. We need people to understand the tragedy that the unwed mother to be is facing and lend her all the support she needs.

    I have watched Kya Kehna but have not watched Juno. Will watch it. Thank you for the suggestion.

    I wanted to write a little more, but there is a social stigma that stops me from delving further. This is the first step towards lessening the social stigma. Being a male and raising a voice for female issues is still considered soft and unbrave in India. Trying to raise my voice for equality of spirits.

  3. It’s true that females are not safe….Some males think that females are just 4 a physical relationship; they don’t value women or girls…However, in some case females are also responsible 4 that…..girls have to be careful while choosing her friends.

    1. Absolutely correct Sakshi, precaution is always better than cure….and yes choosing correct friends is something very important these days….but when it comes to relation it should be mutual and no one should blame the other….when in relation every thing is perfect

  4. Like you rightly pointed out, the certificate of marriage legitimises the relationship just in our minds. Otherwise, I don’t see how any relationship could be ‘illegitimate’.

    Anyway, moving beyond, I am strictly against ‘teenage’ pregnancies. I do believe in the concept of there being a right time for things. Like when a girl can’t support a child, she better not indulge. It takes a lot to bring up a life, and that has to be understood in full consciousness, and not in hindsight.

    I would also like to point out that a lady could opt for a child outside marriage when she is financially independent, and also confident that she’d be able to take care of the child.

  5. I agree with Deepaval, but for one aspect. Theat of social stigma, even for a financially independent single woman-to have her biologically own baby (as compared to adotion) is HUGE, probably because of the element of premarital sex.
    And about teenage pregnancies, our society is in no way supportive of it, but at teh same time, it is repressive. I do not know about the atatistics of honour killings in India but believe that giving up the child for adoption in case of teenage pregnancy is a better solution than to humiliate an already stressed adolescent.

  6. Marriage basically ties you to a committed relationship with a partner so that you spend your whole life with that person only without even thinking of any other partner. When we talk about unwed mothers then it is not only the fault of the girl but the man is equally responsible for the same.
    This culture of unwed mothers is not acceptable because it is most likely that the man leaves the lady after his bodily desire is fulfilled and then the girl has to suffer. With getting tied in a knot or in the relationship of husband and wife none of the partners can leave the other one on the fly and without his/her consent.
    in case of unwed mothers culprit are both the partners but since it is the girl who suffers so, it is advised to the ladies to be more vigilant in whom they are showing belief and trust in.

  7. That’s (bound to happen as we all are humans) the wrong thinking we have. Truth is that we all are humans and so are prudential enough to judge what is right and what is wrong. In actual things are bound to happen but not because we all are humans but because those are destined!!
    I know no one should be criticized but it is very tough to make people realize this.

  8. I work for an NGO called El Shaddai Child Rescue. As we are working with street children, abandoned children and children at risk we are quiet familiar with the after effects of unsafe premarital sex.

    Anyways, I came across this post as I was researching the net for relevant info on this issue. We intend to explore options to support Un-Wed mothers. I might borrow a few points from your post for my presentation.

    Thanks for your thoughtful comments!

    Roussel Marshall
    PR & Manager,
    El Shaddai Charitable Trust

  9. Just want to say what a great blog you got here!
    I’ve been around for quite a lot of time, but finally decided to show my appreciation of your work!

    Thumbs up, and keep it going!


  10. Hi Palak,
    I am Indian, living in India, single and have decided to become a mother. I was browsing the net for similar stories or articles and chanced upon your blog. Thanks for thinking progressively.
    You have thought of a love child. Another aspect to unwed mothers is also by choice. I am 35, well settled financially, not in a relation. Yet my maternal instincts are strong and i seek gratification. So there’s something called IVF. This is another kind of single motherhood.
    The stigma attached is the same or may be more. Coz i cant even be blamed of a weak moment. It is a selfish need which i want to fulfill.
    I hope to be able to attain my dreams and soon.
    All the best!!!

  11. @Preeti I don’t know why have you decided to be single. If you have no problems in being in a relationship then I would suggest you to get married and start a family. I am not saying this because of any stigma associated with the path that you want to walk on, but it is always better to have someone along. It is not only about physical relationship but also about companionship. It is true for men and women alike.

    Think about it. 35 is not that late to plan marriage and start a family.

  12. Hi Palak,

    Just went through ur blog and was quiet impressed by what u have been writing in the past…Though guys are at fault undoubtedly but they are never given a second chance to prove, if they feel guilty and then though both being at the fault sympathy is always with the girl and boy is considered to be wrong even though he has upturned the mountain to prove himself,,,,,,but still they r considered wrong,,,,as u mentioned in ur article its a matter of a moment.its shared between two people so y is it that blame is always put on one person irrespective to the extent of moment….

  13. Hi Palak,

    I can relate to your article really well, as i’m going to be a mother soon. My boyfreind of 2 yrs walked out on me since he wasnt ready for the baby. however i decided to continue with the pregnancy. its a very hard time for me & the baby but i’m sure that things will change soon. i really dont care about the society cuz they aint feeding me.

    Thank you for taking the initiative to write on this issue.


  14. Hi,

    I know for sure that i will get lots of negative feedback for my act. I’m 28 unwed and soon to be a mother. I had an affair with a guy for 7 years. Of course physical relationship followed.
    Recently he got married and it came as a big surprise and shock to me as he didnt even hinted about his wedding to me. After marriage he came back to me saying he made a big mistake and he loves me and all. We were close again( I know it was wrong). He is having a long distance relationship with his wife. We had sex a couple of times after we again became close. Though i use to feel guilty but somewhere my love for him didnt die. I know I was a fool. i got pregnant. I have decided not to abort the child. Not because i still love him but because I should give my child a right to live and prove himself/herself. i dont care about the society. Society was never there when i was in depression or for any of my need.

    I am determined that i will not abort.


    1. Hi Shiji,

      You have taken the right decision, however going back to that man again is not right. Stand up on your own feet and you’ll see how wonderful that will make you feel. I’m of your age too and currently 7 months pregnant. So i know excatly how you feel. Its very hard, but you’ll get thru it. Have faith & be positive.

      Stay Blessed!!


    2. Hi Shiji

      All the best and I believe everyone here will be waiting for the good news, it needs real courage for what u are doing….god bless

    3. Hi Shiji,

      First of all many congratulations for your baby and your decision to give him/her life 🙂

      I came across you while researching for my work for unplanned pregnancies and unprotected sex, for which I am looking for people like you to come out and tell about your self, your decisions, the time you went through, the situations you came across.

      If you are based in India and you feel you can share your life on a national platform then please write back to me at

      Best wishes and regards,
      Hina S.

  15. Sometimes premarital relationship and pregnancy are informed decisions rather than eventualities. All it takes to accept such decisions is respect for others’ perspectives. Loved the post, keep at it.

  16. Hi Palak,

    I came across your post while researching for unprotected sex and unwanted pregnancies for my work. You have put down very true account of things in India and the same we are going to address on a national platform.

    I might need your help on the subject for which I need a direct platform to communicate with you. I would like to share the details for my work and discuss the nature in which you (if you can) help.

    Please let me know your e-mail ID where I can write to you.

    Hina S.

    1. Hina ji

      Infact this is a National issue n must really be addressed on national platform…

      Other than stagima many more issues are associated with unwanted pregnancy of unwed mothers.
      What i feel is that
      1.the girls n boys are not having full knowledge to handle such a situation
      2. The safe passage is not easily available with the involved partners means boys n girls
      3. Boys n girls r sometime forced to take extreme step of ending their life as they do not find any safe passage to terminate the pregnancy without being exposed…
      4. As this issue has yet not got a prime platform for discussion parents too behave differently with involved kids.. at times they opt for honor killing, as i can guess
      5. Doctors could b easily approached yet they feel themselves at risk they don’t to participate or takeup such cases.
      6.Abortion medicine are not available with prescription from chemist is also a big problem..
      7. PNDT act does not permit ultrasound without proper recoding n documentation too force unwed to bear the burn…

      Many more issues are still burried in this issue…
      I too wish to write on all related aspacts and wish to hold a seminar… yet not found any positive response from society at large…
      I m always available to share this issue…

      Hope u shall take up this issue n all associated questions..

      Best regards


  17. Hi Palak and everyone on the blog…

    Thx for starting a very good question n debate n opinion sharing platform…
    The social stigma is a big issue for unwed mother initially ,her family members …. and later for the fatherless child throughout his/her life…
    At each step of life the child will be made to realise and reminded about his/ her mother’s story which might be very tough for the child to bear repeatedly n carry endlessly….

    Here i would like to add
    1. that if a girl so feels at any stage of her pregnancy c should b given fair chances
    to abort the baby c is carrying.
    2. That such care centres should be there especially in India where a girl can free get best advice without any fear of her being identified..
    2. That the identity of both boy and girls who committed such a socalled mistake must be kept secret sothat they are saved from honor killing or committing suicide…


    Raman Shandilya

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