Ugandan men have been found to force their wives to breastfeed them, according to new study.
Sarah Opendi, the country’s minister of state for health, raised the alarm while speaking at the parliament.
“Men are part of the problem during breastfeeding. A mother is breastfeeding, you also want something on the other side, saying that it can cure HIV/AIDS, cancer, male dysfunction. It is a myth,” New Vision quoted her to have said this while addressing the house in August 2018.
She added also that “a growing culture of men demanding to suckle, which was becoming a problem for some breastfeeding mothers and their babies”.
There was a recent study by Kyambogo University in Kampala and Britain’s University of Kent, supported by the Global Challenges Research Fund on the practice.
The Guardian UK, reports that findings from the study conducted in the rural Buikwe district showed the practice is now linked to gender violence and coercive behaviour.
Rowena Merritt, a British behavioural scientist who specialises in public health and a lead researcher on the project, said, “It was very much an exploratory mission. We didn’t know if we would find anybody willing to talk to us who admitted to doing it. We didn’t even really know if it was real or not. ”
“One said: ‘I know other men do it, but we’ve never talked about it.’ So that to me would suggest that it is a common behaviour, but it isn’t socially accepted.”
“It appears to be a hugely coerced behaviour from the people we spoke to,” he said.
Peter Rukundo, a senior lecturer at Kyambogo University who assisted with the research said, “There is a belief in some communities that breast milk has energising and curative powers, even curing diseases such as HIV and Aids and cancer. ”
“There is a gap in public awareness of the risks in such practices. But the challenge is we don’t have the evidence of the magnitude of this behaviour. We need a survey on prevalence.”
Thomas, one man who practices the weird behaviour said, “It sustains me, I come home for lunch and it relieves stress in the middle of the working day. ”
“She can’t say no because you become obsessed, it’s hard to stop. If women say no it can cause violence, it’s a big issue.”
One woman was quoted as saying, “I fear that my husband might go elsewhere if I wouldn’t let it happen. ”
Health expert, however, worries for the risk such unhealthy practice pose to newly born babies who may contact infections from breasts from the man’s saliva.
“The fear for me, is the longer that this continues it will become part of the culture and tradition for the next generation. I see parallels with FGM,” Merritt said.