Politics of love

India has many rules and norms which deter a person from loving another

December 04, 2022 12:42 am | Updated 12:42 am IST

Social norms can set up many hurdles to young love.

Social norms can set up many hurdles to young love. | Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

A couple sitting on a park bench is interrupted by a security guard. The guard holds a stick and starts by saying, “I caught you sitting together, and you are not allowed to do these things in a public place. This will ruin the park environment”. The couple is asked to leave the park as soon as possible.

Such surveillance leads me to ask whether these measures really bring security to women. Is getting surveilled in everyday spaces and at every moment really making things safer? Is ordering women to maintain patriarchal norms and not letting an independent woman take charge helpful? How can we talk about safety and security when a patriarchal lens has shaped the norms? This is the right time to think about how security and surveillance gets normalised as steps towards a “civilised” India.

Love and laws

I think India has many social norms which tell a person how not to love rather than how to. There is stigma around marrying someone from another religion, same sex marriage and same sex love. Social restrictions based on religion, caste, class and gender are considered sacrosanct norms of “civilised” Indian society. Entering an arranged marriage is like getting a certificate of honour for being the ideal son or daughter.

If restrictions continue to be placed on today’s youth, we are planting the seeds of suffocation, depression and unhappiness in their lives. We must ask whether having feelings, liking others and expressing the same is wrong. And this leads to one more serious question: why is the frequency of rape, violence, suicidal tendencies, and depression rising among the youth? Who is listening to their silent pleas?

Often, girls’ studies have been abruptly stopped and boys beaten or killed for their choices in love. The difficult question is, are we allowing the young generation to self-explore? Who defines the thin line between surveillance and freedom and the individual’s right to choose? Are the state’s laws and society’s norms ruining innocent lives?

The answer is complex because many of us come forward with our “parental id-card”, philosophising about learning from a bad experience. But my dear friend, don’t use your experience as the hallmark of the truth, don’t let your child suffocate under your parenting. Don’t let norms and laws universalise experiences. Individuals are different — their feelings and emotions are different from that of their parents. Let the youth express themselves. Wipe out the societal binaries of good and evil as emotions and feelings are sacred and know no boundary. One can never control and tame them.

The objective here is not to romanticise the attraction and lust between two people but to keep away violence and anger from their environment. A child is not harmed if he or she sees a couple hugging and caring for each other. But children get affected if they see couples shouting at each other and fighting.

It’s time to normalise a loving environment rather than put surveillance on it. Such an environment teaches our younger generation to live peacefully, harmoniously and with tolerance.

Violence perpetuates further violence, but only love can replace violence.


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