The increasing dialogues on mental wellness, in lieu of the rising numbers of suicide cases among the youth, has urged many of us to speak about mental health issues with an aim to equip our society, and kick start a conversation that was long overdue. This discussion has snapped us back into reality and left us contemplating the idealism that we previously surrounded ourselves with. We must start a dialogue on matters that truly count before we endure more adversities as a nation.
India is known for having a deep sense of culture that is unquestionably rooted in its uncompromising lifestyle and rigid practices, which are the result of a systematic exclusion of few communities and propagation of stigmas, related to topics that we should talk about!
Some of the issues that are not spoken of in public forums due to the social stigma attached to them are, the lack of awareness on menstrual health and sexual intercourse; systematic exclusion of the LGBTQ community; ostracism of lower caste communities and prejudice towards women. The lack of conversation on such matters continue to hamper the progress of this country and perpetuate regressive practices such as dowry, hostile religious expressions, and honour killings which continue to be an abhorrent part of our society.
In spite of being aware of the predicament our society is in, we rarely ponder the steps we can take to reform it as doing so is tough for all of us. It’s time we analyse these ‘facts’, be cognizant and scrutinize the social dogma and start making attempts to act on our negligence. I want to set in motion a dialogue by turning your attention to the value a woman has in our society. On the face of it, our nation is seen as revering women as goddesses, and is meant to grant them equal rights, however the number of women who are tormented by rape, honour killing, child abuse, dowry death, acid attack, female foeticide, trafficking, child marriage and more, continues to increase daily.
Social stigma about menstruation forces upon women a ‘proper decorum’ built by superstitions which expect women to exclude themselves from their communities and put their lives on hold. According to ‘The Hindu’ in the article, ‘Is India suffering from period poverty?’ dated, May 28, 2018 states that 60% of young girls miss a week of school every month! The lack of awareness towards periods and the atrocious superstition that menstruation makes you dirty, is petrifying to say the least!
While equal rights for women and understanding the value a woman has in society are a discussion that must be had, we cannot for one second forget the treatment of the LGBTQ community in India who continue to encounter homophobic attitudes and face discrimination from their families, acquaintances, employers, law enforcement agencies and society in general. Although there is some openness towards homosexuality in urban areas, though mind you, not nearly enough to make these spaces safe and comfortable place for them as they continue to receive an intense backlash and are still treated as outcasts in the Indian society. We need to talk about why everyone deserves equal rights, and how our actions can change the status quo.
To shape an informed and respectable society, we must be consciously aware of gender and role stereotypical concepts that swamp every waking moment of our lives. To challenge our mindset and avoid involuntarily absorbing ideas that deter progress, we need to discuss any and all the issues that many of us have simply attributed as ‘facts’,which are in fact the process of internalizing the negative norms and ideologies that the society fosters.
All of what I hope to discuss and start a dialogue over has made me realise that, they emphasize ‘who we wish to be’, above, ‘who we are expected to be’, which leaves us being perceived as the rebels or deviants in a society which desperately needs to witness change to progress. The power of speaking up and following through on who we wish to be is liberating and is a small step in breaking the vicious cycle of secrecy and compromise that shackles a society’s potential to develop. In order to outdo ourselves and surpass such limitations we need to begin supporting one and other and indulging in each other’s stories as equals. I hope to contribute and be a part of a society where anyone can talk and voice their opinions, and nothing is perceived as a taboo.
For this to happen, it’s time we talk!