Refusing cesarean sections to protect fertile futures

Somali refugees, motherhood, and precarious migration

by LUCY LOWE

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While cesarean sections are increasingly used worldwide, Somali refugee women in Kenya are rejecting the operation in attempts to protect their future reproductive capacities. In a context of displacement and insecurity, women's reproductive bodies can be crucial to their security and strategies for onward migration. Somali women's resistance to C‐sections mirrors prevalent practices of female circumcision, since they are both perceived by physicians as medically harmful but by women as essential to achieving gendered expectations of marriage and motherhood. The strategic modification and protection of reproductive capacities are situated in multifaceted social and political ruptures, and women's refusal of surgery is part of a long‐term, future‐oriented pursuit of motherhood and survival.