Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Why at War With Tradition?

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Sitting in a circle with six other, never-seen-before tensed faces, I tapped on the desk with my pen, waiting for our Group Discussion topic. The topic ‘pre-marital sex or post-marital sex’ was given to us, with 2.5 minutes, to sort our views.

When I heard the topic, I almost sighed with relief. I haven’t been keeping up with the current affairs lately (!) and would have hated to sit quietly just because. But since this was a very general topic, I gladly began writing pointers.

I had decided not to pick a side. I wished to point out how marriage is now a social construct and, unfortunately, the only space to express one’s sexuality. How we have attached a sense of honor to sex, acceptable only within the boundary of marriage, and only appropriated it for procreation. I wished to challenge the ruling out of love and/or pleasure from the premise of sex and differently labeling women (sluts/whores) and men (studs) indulging in it before marriage. Finally, liberate sex from marriage (at least inside that classroom, for now) and present pre and post-marital sex as equally acceptable and respectable options.

The discussion finally began when one of my co-mates started defining the title and stated that she supports post-marital sex because that is what our culture deems appropriate. She added that our parents and grandparents are not ‘modern’ enough to accept sex before marriage and won’t support any ‘immoral’ behavior. (Acceptance of pre-marital sex as an option isn’t expecting some miracle to happen).

There have been changes adopted in the traditional belief system, which our older generation so strictly adheres to. Sati and child marriage which were once considered ‘traditional’ and ‘normal,’ are now considered inhumane by conservatives.

Change does take time to occur and isn’t always pretty to bring about, but it doesn’t mean it can’t happen!!

Another girl joined in and said that pre-marital sex could lead to ‘consequences,’ unacceptable in our society.

The consequences were: unwanted pregnancy and the abandonment of a girl after being sexually indulged. Marriage has legal binding, and hence sex after marriage is a safer option, she added.

*contraceptive pills and other measures work, without discrimination, even if somebody conceives before/without marriage.*

*deserting of a partner is a possibility within marriages as well! Heard of DIVORCES?? Moreover, it is not just girls, and boys get abandoned too!!*

And this ‘legal binding’ isn’t as rosy as is being painted; it has chained some people into years of torture and dissatisfaction because the abusive partner would just not let go! Or because it is such a hectic procedure.

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After I made my rebuttals heard and was backed by more points by the supporters of pre-marital sex, the debate got ugly. Questions like – Would you indulge in pre-marital sex? Would your parents agree to it? Were hurled at defenders of pre-marital sex, with a sideward glance almost shouting “SLUT!”.

After a reminder to not personally attack fellow mates were circulated… tired, I sat back wondering if my original pointers could even feature in this debate.

The discussion was inconclusive; like Angad’s foot, each side stuck to their viewpoint, immovable.

All I wished was to make both the factions see that the vehemence they were defending their stands wasn’t required. These two need to be seen as CHOICES, which individuals should be able to choose without being labeled as ‘virtuous’ or ‘promiscuous.’

Tradition and Culture are definitely pivotal in the formation of our being. They influence our beliefs, actions, code of morality, and certain life choices.

What is required to understand is that tradition is ever-evolving. What made sense a hundred years ago does not necessarily stand valid today. The rational beings that we are, we cannot blindly accept anything and everything in the name of tradition. It has been made by us, for us. Hence, it is subject to change whenever it thwarts growth and expression.

We need to be informed and aware and make conscious choices without the fear of offending our elders, ancestors, and culture.

Please do not mistake me for saying that believing in dominant beliefs is conservative and stagnant. But the choice to uphold it should at least be based on reasons other than “because this is the way things have been happening since time immemorial!” or “because it is our tradition!!”

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We as the Youth need to make this world a more tolerant and accommodating place. Draw from your culture, celebrate your tradition and take pride in knowing that our ancestors have changed through suffocation.

W.S. Maugham once said, “Tradition is a guide, not a jailer.” – Something no one in that GD wanted to hear. Something I almost told them.


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