Prom nights aren’t a thing in our country. As we talked of in our previous article, adolescent sexuality is an intimidating concept in our country. Women and even men choosing their romantic and sexual partners for themselves is scoffed at, to say the least. The worst possible outcome would be community sanctioned murders, what we often term as honour killings. But what is it that makes us so different from the west, so much so that we validate our repression of sexuality by linking it to our traditions and culture.
Well to point out first, there is ample proof, recorded and oral in our past histories and literature of how the culture of the subcontinent viewed sexuality with a mindset liberal enough to put our western colonisers to shock. With the spreading of Victorian ideals, India gave birth to a nation stuck in a moral colonial hangover where western imports of morality and uptightness grew to be seen as our indigenous culture. But the problem goes deeper.
As a nation, we are riddled with deep fissures of class, caste, religious and gender differences. Our country has a hugely misogynistic tendency of placing the onus of a family or community’s honour on its women. Women are believed to repress their sexuality as the only way of gatekeeping the community’s honour. The notion of the ‘good’ woman and the ‘fallen’ woman started emerging at the time of nation-building in India’s history. And in order to develop a strict sense of identity from a place where not much existed before, society needs to control its women first at all times. For the progeny is always identified by the father’s name. Hence to control the demographics of a particular community it is important for a patriarchal society to first control the sexuality of its women.
In the early times, women were married off as soon as they entered puberty or even at the start of pre-pubescence. There was no choice alloted to the woman to decide a life partner for herself. In fact, neither did the man have much of a choice other than rejecting or approving of already done selections by family members. As we have moved away from such regressive times, although women and men have the right to choose, freedom is allowed in a small bubble. And even in that bubble, mostly when marriage is deemed fit for the stage of life the individual passes through. Freedom towards an end.
Indian society remains largely marriage-oriented and marriage is seen to be the ultimate target of the lives of women. Westernisation has impacted Indians only in so much that a well qualified or educated girl finds more prospect in the marriage market. While a lot of women are trying to break free of this mindset problem by becoming independent financially and giving utmost priority to their careers, marriage still remains important for all. Hence love for the simple sake of love or relationships as phases of life to judge better fro, are obscure concepts. Hence adolescence has no space for exploring of sexuality or romance but must follow the strict rules of conduct as has been ordained by parents and society at large. When it comes to love, our society can hardly view it with the lens of freedom and liberty. Love has always to be the means to an end, the end mostly being marital entanglement.
Hence India’s enormous problem to view adolescent sexuality in a free, healthy, liberated light. For marriage is by far seen as the sole societal sanction for sexuality and sexuality is seen as the sole means to procreation and not much else. It will take time for this problem to change. All we can do till then is to teach our children to love simply for the sake of love, without any predetermined aim or goal.