Why Are Young Women Discouraged From Asking Questions About Divorce?

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In many Indian households, any chatter on “uncomfortable” topics automatically slips under the carpet. These topics can range from domestic abuse to women’s agency and sex. Families do not sit down together to discuss these issues because they threaten to dispute our cultural values. Young women, especially, are discouraged from asking questions about divorce and other taboo topics as families feel that the ensuing interaction could corrupt their minds.

Many young women will agree that an open conversation about divorces and separation is a subject that Indian families refuse to discuss with them. Men will not think twice before dropping sexist jokes about wives at the dinner table (in front of kids no less), but suddenly when the conversation veers to the subject of divorce, they pretend that they have not even heard of the word. Women aren’t better either. Moms, aunts and grandmothers use the power of death stare to shut up young women when they ask questions about dysfunctional marriages.

The notion of divorce

In our society, marriage is not only seen as a bond that lasts till death do the pair apart, but the one that will sustain for the next seven lifetimes. With a commitment so elaborate, the topic of ‘divorce’ never even finds its way to the minds of most people. Couples live in toxic marriages year after year, women accept that their husband hit him only because they love him and whatnot. People would rather suffer in a toxic relationship for a lifetime than challenge cultural norms and invite social scrutiny. Since most parents were brought up believing that divorce is corrosive to our culture, they have no clue how to handle the subject in front of their kids, other than dismissing it altogether.

Masking tape on young women 

We see it very frequently that in any social circle, be it professionals, family, relatives or even close friend groups, the narrative of conversations is based on what men want to talk about. Women are shut down in the middle of their sentence and labelled as nagging, ranting, needy and whatnot. This attitude both discourages women from asking questions and establishes a hierarchy. If your father is telling you to shut up when you ask a question about separation then he is doing so because patriarchy as ingrained it in him, and the social and familial bubble around him, that men know better. Young women are also shushed not only because of their gender, but because of age as well, on grounds that they are too ‘immature’ to understand any discussion on the said subjected. 

The need for change

To the families who avoid these ‘uncomfortable’ topics, there is only one thing that I want to say: Your kids deserve your attention on the things they want to talk about. Even if you shut down the conversations about sex, gender, divorce or any other relevant topic, it only creates a barrier in your relationship with them. 

Besides, keeping your eyes closed will not alter the reality of Indian marriages. Divorces and separations happen. And every person should know how to identify if a marriage is working out for them or not and walk away from it. It’s healthy for society, families and the people involved in a messy relationship. So why not prepare young women for reality that could befall them, than conditioning them to believe in a fairy tale marriage that seldom comes true.

Views expressed are the author’s own.

Suggested Reading: How Can Parents Help Children To Move On After Divorce?