Do I owe social responsibility for refusing forced marriage?
Is it a social sin to decide my life course ?
By firmly saying no to socio-cultural expectation of marriage by an unofficially stated age, I am at risk of constant sexual annoyance, verbal attack and ridicule from those who labeled me as unorthodox and a disgrace. The risk, in fact, ought to be nonexistent, yet social pressure is a persistent, hungry monster. Am I not entitled to decide for myself the path upon which I embark? Does a life path not include marriage? Surely, in the 21st century, this by no means is a common norm, freedom and right. This understanding though, sadly, fails to be respected by many who surround me – those from my village, the neighbors and even unknown locals. Girls, ladies, women, regardless what the title is, have their age sitting stamped upon their forehead, and if still single, they become greater targets for harassment and assault.
Repeated whys twirl in my mind: must I be married to be socially accepted and a contributing responsible member of society ? I bear no grudge against marriage, and I champion the free will to fall in love, and to marry or not to marry. Yet for marriage to be socially and culturally forced, it lacks legitimacy as an individual right. Who wouldn’t agree he or she is allergic to such a shackle ? I know I am not alone on this.
I take charge of my life, and I am more than willing to bear the outcome of choices I enlisted in. I, however, will not succumb to socio-cultural expectations and outdated orthodox values, of which both fundamentally disregard respect and equality for women. The pressure from conventional environment and family, the sexual harassment as the emotional tortures are unbearable. As a result, many girls give in – for marriage appears to be the only solution to wipe away the infinite nightmares. What frequently follows forced marriages are the devastation and resentment sinking the happily ever after. The consequences, in numerous accounts, are tragic, and this is not unheard of from the press. News recently reported an atrocity committed by a husband and his family, abusing and burning the wife for not meeting their defined and demanded dowry. Female victims suffered, and not those who had placed the women in the furnace. Questioning ‘why’ is a response to the circulating news and opinion. For most of us, there is an obvious answer, yet the problematic underlying reality and crises have lasted for ages in this country and remain ominous, just beneath the surface, waiting to be scratched . The solution lies in wakening our ethics and morals.
Feminine rights and respect are overlooked, and unfortunately, this is a tough battle to fire first shot. The days when females were equivalent to object and sale product, supposedly, are farewell for good, at least legally and by overt contemporary standards. Sadly, in reality, prejudice and ill-treatment remain at large in today’s Nepal, and evidently, too, in daily life. Many girls are denied the opportunity for proper education and the right to be integrated as productive, contributing, and independent members of society. There are regular instances of graffiti marking verbal indecencies and abuse on the signboard of our LWH shop. We receive sickening text messages from unidentified callers popping repeatedly on personal mobile devices, and stares of hatred from neighbors and relatives, just to name a few. These do not solely victimize me. Similar circumstances are commonly bestowed upon other girls of my age group. These matters affect us all, young and grown-ups. Among my ladies in LWH, some are into their mid-age, whom have suffered marriage violence. I recalled the days when even in an academic setting, harassment struck ; while in class, a male teacher out of the blue patted me from behind with a smirk. Imagine this , coming from an adult mentor, to whom you look for guidance. A foreign friend of mine, too, experienced public shame during a visit in Nepal; even female solo travelers may be subject to gender offense.
My patience and my held breath are at its limit. Hence, I honestly voice my intolerance towards these offensive and inhumane behaviors, and the disrespect and inmoral social abuse afflicted towards women simply because they are women. Should anyone suffer from the physical form into which they were born ? I pray for these misguided individuals to quest appropriate and meaningful roles and tasks to engage in this life, rather than to exhibit ill-considered, inappropriate and childish acts that only result in cementing artificial and counterproductive barriers.
I am, undeniably, dubious on the evolution of the human consciousness, in particular the socio-cultural mentality in the society I have called home. While modern infrastructures and equipments have advanced at a blinding pace in Nepal (Kathmandu itself has doubled in size in the last 10 years alone ) the respects and rights biologically owed to the feminine spirit and form have been imported at the very bare minimum. Many individuals, young and old, own high-tech devices such as mobile phones, computers and iPads. If we are now so familiar and comfortable with technology , how about building and keeping a database of critical thinking and principles? It is not uncommon for humans to be lured to posses bigger, better and greater tools of technology. We want increased and sophisticated features or functions, whether it be a mobile , a motorbike or a dwelling. Undoubtedly, I agree with there is necessity for the existence of some tools to assist individuals to accomplish tasks and sustain a living – it’s no sin. The public, in general, believes these modern possessions will somehow improve and bring further conveniences to daily survival. But why not transfer this legitimate desire for improved and advanced lifestyle to what lies at the heart of our lives - the moral standard through which we advance all actions ? Oddly, we invest very little in advancing our beliefs, no matter how much we love our friends, lovers and family - as a society we have stalled in our progress towards a holistically loving contemporary world.
It is interesting that at increasing intervals our equipments and vehicles are replaced for better ones so to keep up with the smart living, trends, and the rapid change in technology. These are ordinary phenomena across the globe, and again, a cliché. I, however, am skeptical in regards to the genuine necessity of this constant change to new and upgraded modern devices. Though the tools are in fine service and functional, why outcast the still usable and durable for new just for the sake of a fresh flash or a new sound ? Hasn’t it hit the societal mind that our group mentality and values are urging, crying for renovation , far greater than the need to replace our already new machines and vehicles?
Possessing healthy souls and minds are vital - to my country, my society and my home village, it certainly is and has a desperate need. The materialistic well-being solves little of the moral and ethical problem the creeps along side us . Needless to say, it solves none for girls, ladies and women at an disadvantage position. My signature saying states, what to do? I aim to respond constructively, with the sharp observations , pressing questions and clear solutions that these problems demand. If I believe in anything it is the creativity and power of each individual. Together we can move mountains .
I Pray, pray and I pray for awakenings in my home village, society and those surrounding me. I wish for us all to uncover the true dignity, beauty and shine lying beneath the muck. Life as a free human, a respected individual for both genders is our natural born state, and none should be disqualified. I am on this movement this path and I will remain : despite my unfavourability and my outcast state in eyes of many. Against all odds I persist. Like igniting a non-violent revolution, the act requires perseverance and possibly faces mental impeachment. Admittedly, difficulties and threats had pushed me on verge of surrender, but thanks to supportive friends, strength drives me farther to sustain LWH and fortify my values along carefully chosen principles. Forced marriage, socio-cultural pressure, living under arbitrary disadvantages and sexual assault, namely, are issues I have battled for years. I endured, neither because I have great tolerance nor courage in the face of risk. Rather it is the common sense which someone must stand and live up to address and challenge of reality, thereby, pushing me to the front lines. Any change for the better initiates with voicing aloud what is righteous, parallel to clear directed action - as this is what world history has proven effective. This is the foundation for establishment of LWH. Women should not be subject to unequal treatment against their own will.
To marry or not to marry, it is not a question. It is a matter free will.
What is social sin? I leave it to you, to determine and evaluate. If not now , then when ?