In my letter published in last weekend ‘s issue, a response to the July 25 letter by Major Lloyd Jones regarding dual citizen voting rights, I made a statement regarding unmarried mothers in Belize which I would appreciate the opportunity to expand on.
I stated that unmarried women with children, because of poverty, have always been a noticeable presence in Belize as far as back as one can trace. By “unmarried women with children” I refer to the group the original letter I was responding to with the term “single motherhood,” that is, those women who have children but are not married to the fathers.
I was by no means implying that poverty has always been and still is the sole reason there are unmarried women with children in Belizean society, but rather that historically this situation occurs proportionally more often among the poor. There are many reasons for this. I do note that there are women in the upper economic echelons of Belizean society who are not married to the fathers of their children. There have also been, and are, many poor unmarried mothers whose children have been fathered by men who are well off financially.
Allow me to explain my preference for the term “unmarried” rather than “single motherhood.” My reasoning is that the word “single” brings attention only to the one parent that is present, the mother. It ignores the existence of a father. “Unmarried,” on the other hand, underscores that there’s a male in the equation who has not committed to the unit by matrimony.
Some may agree with today’s popular view that we are moving away from the traditional family structure – father, mother and children, and that “single motherhood” is socially acceptable. It remains a fact, however, one that is demonstrated worldwide, that homes where the father is absent are more likely to be and remain poor. It is widely accepted that in such homes the children are generally more vulnerable and are fair game for all manner of exploitation. They are more likely to be drawn into a life of crime, particularly boys.
Crime, particularly violent crime, perpetrated by our young men against one another and against society, is wreaking havoc in Belize. If this newspaper agrees, I would like to take this opportunity to invite a public discourse in this medium on the issue of unmarried motherhood and all its ramifications, poverty in particular. If such a discourse is already being held elsewhere, I would appreciate someone writing and sharing that information.
Poverty is not a sensational topic. Most don’t want to even see poor people. They are invisible – until they make the headlines under the caption CRIME. I believe this is a vital conversation.
Considering the proportions of both poverty and crime in Belize, the stability of its society and the economic development of the country could be well served.
(Ed. NOTE: Needless to say, the newspaper “agrees.”)