Issuing Into Pop Culture: Love Is Not Abuse

12 May 2012 | Youth Affairs | By Makepeace

If approximately 55% of young adolescents in India justify wife beating, how many of them are in abusive relationships themselves?

0Comments Read Moredating violence, Domestic Violence, intimate partner violence, Rape India, Sexual Harassment

We might believe that the young folks who have grown up in globalized urban environments or have been vicariously exposed to them via television and the internet are an open minded and expressive lot. With every passing thought and moment being captured directly on their status messages and location check ins, one would imagine that they are higher independence seekers and problems, as they will occur, can far more easily be gauged with them by the ‘expert’ adults around.

But it’s a heart breaking news to give when I realized that technology or pop culture, at large, has only got them speaking a language and airing views that is expected of them (least of all, that they might even understand) and hardly ever saying some of the things that need to be said or said more often. But avoiding a ‘holier-than-thou’ stand here, the society and the government are the bigger culprits, who far from fostering an environment of healthy exchanges have only created invisible boundaries and cages, lest you break them and it’ll result in bullying, victimizing, rape, harassment, murder, honour killing and other such horrendous crimes that we read about in disgust and then, fear its impending possibilities.

Got Stared.at's campaign posters that have been going viral on Facebook

It took all of my adolescence and early adulthood for street sexual harassment and rape, acts that are SO EVIDENTLY WRONG, to be collectively denounced and understood as unjust on women and men, who are struck by it like a lightening bolt, that one never expects to befall them. But can I really blame my generation, or even myself, for even debating this in the grey zone of discussion? We grew up watching movies in which, women walking home alone were (without fail) picked up by a gang of men with Cobra beer bottles in an open jeep. This was consequentially followed by the victim committing suicide, losing her sanity or taking her ‘shamed face’ to another place, where no one knows what happened to her. We’ve come a long way as a culture and generation that confidently mocks and criticizes the Gurgaon police for the views carried in the Tehelka sting and openly abhors our chief ministers for their unbecoming lack of support to incidents of violence against women in major metropolises. Even homosexuality is not a threat to seemingly heterosexual youngsters, who have, in fact, become more open about their experimentations and having a gay bff is so very 90’s.

But this same generation who is apparently modern and liberal about most things seems to believe that a husband beating his wife is justified, well at least 57% of adolescent boys and 53% of the girls thought so as per UNICEF’s Global Report Card on Adolescents 2012. It came as a huge shock (as much as India being ranked no. 4 in the list of most dangerous countries for women to live in) and most would have jumped to blame the parents for all the domestic violence that teenagers were exposed to as ‘acceptable’ in a marriage and to keep the family together.  While that is the obvious truth, there is the other side of the silence as well here.

Our society and its implicit values set the perfect breeding ground for violence and abuse to infest and grow rapidly beyond control. Whether its in a marriage that cannot be broken and has to appear picture perfect or a romantic relationship (awaiting the legitimacy of marriage) between two teenagers or young unmarried adults, that still happens much outside of societal acceptance or knowledge, intimate partner violence becomes a common threat. Primarily, people struggle with the very concept and definition of what constitutes as abusive and violent in the young blooming love of romantic cards, corner movie theatre seats and late night messaging. Secondly, young love by definition is also considered volatile and fuming with passion, hormones and restless energy. So adolescents abusing or getting abused are in all likelihood unaware of their own doing. The iron fist solution to these problems is, of course, coerced separation that only suppresses the issue and does not resolve it.

Let the young learn their first and many more lessons of intimacy, infatuation, love, heart break and even, betrayal. Let them also learn early in life that physical or emotional threats to your partner does not stem out of your love for them but your need to control them, which is clearly WRONG. While love bites may be sweet and passionate, beating her black and blue because she’s trying to break up with you is clearly a CRIME. Expressing your feelings physically is a huge step but forcing yourself on the other person is a VIOLATION of basic trust.

This is an important call to the young adults and individuals to stop treating these studies and statistics as third party and identify your experience and story in it. It is as well time that we don’t hush these issues in silence only because you’re told that its supposed to be all fun and games when you’re young. As a peer, we need to start encouraging voices to come out of the closet rather than shame and shun those that find the courage to. We need to collectively raise our voice against the issue and the act, not the victim or the perpetrator. 

Thats Not Cool - a cool campaign that talks to young folks about boundaries in relationships

Let us make taking a stand against dating violence a ‘cool thing to do’ and just as we have said no to abusing drugs for fun, lets say a BIG no to abusing partners for love.

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