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Chineze Aina: Why is There Still a Preference for Male Children in 2018?



Becky couldn’t sleep. Earlier in the day, her husband and his mother, her mother-in-law, had an argument about another family member. Her husband had ended the conversation on a sour note, walking out on his mum.

Becky recognizing that her husband had been needlessly rude, went in to calm her mother-in-law, and like all dutiful daughters-in-law, offered false but expected support to her mother-in-law.

Her mother in law was silent.

“Don’t mind Paul. He is really stressed at work and is just taking out on us. Mummy, don’t worry, he will apologize.”

Becky’s mother-in-law looked at her with an expression difficult to understand. She said, “You will not understand. When you start having children, then you will understand.”

The words were a shock to Becky who was already a mother to three daughters. She called her mother on the phone. But her mum didn’t offer much comfort either. Over the phone she sounded worried when she wasn’t silent. “Becky, you have to try for another baby before these people disgrace us.”


Mrs. John was making the long trip from Lagos to Enugu to see a ‘powerful man of God.’ All her grandchildren were female. Her friends insisted it was her evil brother-in-law who cast a spell on her children, punishing them because she didn’t share her late husband’s property with him. When the news got to her that her 10th grandchild and the latest addition to her family was yet another female, she knew it was time to take some steps spiritually.


Larea’s marriage took a turn for the worse when she gave birth to her first child and it was female. In her husband’s family it was expected to have male children as firstborn. His great-grandfather had 17 brothers, no sisters. They gave birth to almost 100 sons and less than 10 daughters. Daniel, her husband, had 5 brothers. Daniel was the first member of his family to have a female as a first child. Although no one said anything to Larea and her husband, their disappointment was palpable. Larea later gave birth to a boy on her third try, but didn’t quite redeem herself in her in-law’s eyes. Her husband detested being the one who brought the ‘stain.’


As Benson prepared for his new baby’s naming ceremony, his landlord observed all the excited activities from his balcony upstairs. The old man’s mouth turned in disgust, annoyed at the cost the young man was incurring, from food, to drinks, music, etc. Benson was excited about being a father for the second time, thankful to God for the blessing of a healthy child. On the day of the naming ceremony, the landlord who couldn’t keep his perplexity to himself any longer called Benson aside and asked him, “Why are you spending so much money on another baby girl, abi is it a boy?” Benson confirmed that it was indeed a girl. The old man got even more annoyed at this. “So all this activity is for another girl? Ha, you are a foolish boy!”


While female children are not necessarily neglected in many homes, male children are preferred.

Why do people prefer boy children? In developing countries like ours, this preference is understood to be realistic as boys continue the family name. Men have more rights and are likely to earn more. Traditionally, people don’t even bother with the pragmatics. They just know that a boy child makes it all complete.

In Nigeria, people who do not have male children still struggle to convince friends and family that they are happy and not searching for ‘completeness.’ In the 21st century, women have made giant strides in areas of technology, leadership, education, and are more ambitious and unafraid to demand a seat at the table. But 70% of first time pregnant parents still want a boy in Nigeria. Having a boy child first takes away the tension and fear of having a female as one’s second child, especially in this day that family sizes are getting smaller. If you have your male child first, its more like accomplishing a task and moving on to other less important things.

A lot of women are even more afraid of birthing daughters. They’re afraid for their security in their husband’s house. Some are worried about what the future holds for a girl, females being susceptible to sexual exploitation, workplace intimidation, and in several cultures can not inherit.

In many homes, girls are taught to put their brothers first. This results in many females giving up their own education just so that the males in the family can school while they sell in the market or take up unskilled labor.

There are a lot of damaging beliefs that may have contributed to the global defeat of the female sex, from patriarchy to the fact that several religions consider women as unfit and ineligible to rule or as important as men.

Nature has given women the ability to create, but this vital role is not recognized as a strength, as women still struggle for relevance in many parts of Nigeria. As a people, we must radically change our thinking for the advancement of our nation.

We can change things. The pronoun ‘he’ appears in the Nigerian constitution more than 235 times, we could start from changing this to ‘he or she’ throughout the constitution. Women should pursue the achievement of full human expression regardless of their sex, and teach their children to do so, too.

Photo Credit: Dreamstime

Chineze lives in Lagos with her husband and 3 young children. She is excited to connect on twitter @ChinezeAnuli, Instagram @chinezeaina and Medium


  1. 2cents

    November 13, 2018 at 4:55 pm

    Loads of truth in the write up. It is a very sad aspect of society. Men and women alike enforce this thinking. It has to change, it must change and it will change. It will take time but we will get there.

    Now just an adding to this — There are a lot of damaging beliefs that may have contributed to the global defeat of the female sex, from patriarchy to the fact that several religions consider women as unfit and ineligible to rule or as important as men.” — Matriarchy also contribute to these damaging beliefs.

  2. Dayo

    November 14, 2018 at 2:21 am

    In the past, the masculine pronoun was commonly used in the English language (and ALWAYS in general laws and legal documentation) across the globe to signify the non-specific “he or she”., with the interpretation section (or standalone Interpretation legislation in some jurisdictions) specifying that references to the male gender includes female persons. Accordingly, it is neither cultural nor unique to the Nigerian constitution, but nonetheless agree it would be great to replace these with gender-neutral or bi-gender pronouns,

  3. TheRealist

    November 14, 2018 at 2:38 am

    While it is good to focus on things we should be improving within our own societies, let’s not pretend that the male child preference is somehow a Nigerian thing. Even here in the US, a Gallup Poll this year (2018) still showed a male child preference across the board (albeit it is diminishing – especially among females). The reason that China is the world’s capital for adoptive children is a predominantly male child preference under the one-child policy (since modified). Even among the supposedly-enlightened European royals, until recently the male heir tradition engendered a male child preference.

  4. Bella

    November 14, 2018 at 1:20 pm

    Nature has given women the ability to create, BUT, you forgot to mention the most critical point of this as well, MEN (their seed/ sperm) are responsible for the gender of the baby. I rest my case.

  5. Lala

    November 14, 2018 at 8:16 pm

    The frustrating thing is that in most cases it is always the girl who grows up to be the responsible and reliable one! With me and with all my female friends, the girls are the ones after taking the short end of the stick for years is the one that ends up taking care of her the parents as they get older, checking in to make sure they are ok.

    My mother who makes little effort to hide her STRONG preference for my brother (who can get away with things I won’t even dream of doing) straight up told me after I graduated that ‘girls are expected to stay close and provide company for their parents’.

    Case in point, a few weeks ago I was in Ottawa getting my passport renewed. Ended up talking to the people beside me, an older gentleman and a lady the same age as me. The man had not stepped foot in Nigeria or bothered renewing his Nigerian passport for 17 years! The lady and I were shook! We had to ask him, didn’t he have a mother back home? Was she still alive? He said she was but she was ok with the occasional phone call. Who was taking care of her? His younger sister ?
    Let’s not even get started on the fact that his flight home was the next morning ?…..

  6. tonye

    November 16, 2018 at 8:10 am

    such a lovely write up. its all over us. after my 1st child I got an annoying phone call that said thank God he is a boy. few minutes after delivery. Not concerned abt even my health status . let me blow your mind do you know that some traditions believe even when he is male he must resemble his dad. How sad. i had to tell someone and said I carried him for 9 months and my egg was fertilized so why wnt he look like me. resemblance can be a compliment but when you are told to your face that in a family male child resembles their dad. i advice we empower our girl children. keep up the good work this write up is a must read . If facial resemblance determines paternity no one will call for DNA . now eyes are opening cos so many cases of the child that looked so much like the dad when results came it made a mockery of every thing . you have said alot.
    “Does the sex of a child or resemblance determine the love a parent, family or friend would have” .
    some weeks back I just left the hospital and my car was beside a lady with a very modern car . she was quite heavy and I jst looked at her and noticed she kept looking at a paper with no Joy . i told my hubby we passed that lady in the hospital her face expression says her scan is female and he asked me what if she has had many boys and wanted a girl I told him you are male you wnt understand without her speaking I connected to her. she could not drive away with so much sadness in her face. i have heard of women lie abt the sex of a child saying it’s not female to even thier spouse till baby comes and am aware scan may not be accurate in some cases. A former collegue of mine some time back told me her sister inlaw had 3 daughters and traveled out to have a baby after some months she jst felt this lady is suppose to have given birth by now let me call her and to her surprise her sis inlaw said so you joined your brother not to congratulate me because it was another girl. The husband in question did not inform any one of his new baby . so many real stories who are these inlaws, friends and spouses are they not we humans . Change begins with us .

    • Chi

      November 16, 2018 at 6:12 pm

      You are right TONYE. Too many stories.

  7. Olamide

    November 16, 2018 at 3:22 pm

    I often wonder why its so in this present time, parents who are supposedly literate prioritizes a male child over a female child sometimes making the female children think they are of no relevance to the society. They allow the male children to go away with anything ;bad or good while the females on the other hand has no right whatsoever to do any if this things. Thanks so much for this article.

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