Could you ever grasp the idea of loving someone but not being ‘allowed’ to be with them?
No, me neither.
When I was little, I knew a young Pakistani girl who became a victim of an honour killing. Samaira Khan worked in the local greengrocers that her family owned and ran in Southall, and like any local business, the family had close relationships with their customers. My own parents were their regulars, and I remember how lovely she was and the polite and warm way in which she spoke to us. In 2006, Samaira was slaughtered by her father and brother for wanting to marry a man they did not approve of. She was stabbed 18 times, her throat was cut open and her life was brought to a tragic end.
Recently, I’ve been thinking about Samaira’s story and the restrictions (and in some cases, ban) placed on romantic love within Asian communities. This was spurred on by the news this morning that a young girl affiliated with my family had committed suicide when her parents refused to let her marry the man she loved. He was simply the ‘wrong’ guy, and according to them, she had ‘better prospects’ elsewhere. Another life lost.
As you can imagine, these incidents are harrowing and devastating to hear about. As a young girl who one day wishes to have a happy marriage with someone I choose myself, it unsettles me that in this day and age, people must continue to suffer for loving someone who is deemed ‘unacceptable’ or ‘wrong’ by members of their family. The restriction on free will within Asian communities – especially in relation to females – is massively depressing and continues to frighten me. Considered the ‘honour’ of the family, it is the girls and women in the family who are especially trained to pick and choose carefully, and in a lot of circumstances, not given the option to pick and choose at all.
Coming from an Indian background, the knowledge that a ‘love marriage’ is somehow shameful has continued to haunt me as I’ve grown up. It continues even now as bans and restrictions on romantic love continue to exist and propel people to either kill others or kill themselves. It angers and frustrates me that people – especially parents who are expected to love unconditionally – feel the need to dictate and decide for others who they should and should not love.
While people around the world are trying to break the mould and normalise romantic love that is not between a man or a woman, two people of the same religion or between a black or white person, there continues to exist a backward-thinking category which refuses to see the happiness of others when it comes to love and relationships. It’s this category I wish to be eliminated forever.
When will people learn that as human beings, we are hard-wired to experience feelings of love and affection for others and also, that romantic love is absolutely normal? I am completely aware and understanding of traditionalism and the fact that people’s cultural and religious ideologies influence their manner of thinking in these areas of life, but in the bigger picture, what is your child’s (or anyone’s?!) happiness in the face of these pointless divides? How can people drive their children to death in this way?
The point of this blog post has been to vent my feelings about such deaths, but also to stress to people in love with someone who their parents may not approve of that you can choose who to be with. We are individuals, with feelings, thoughts, emotions and desires, and nobody should be chastised and certainly not killed for wanting to live happily with someone they are in love with.
I pray and hope that a change in thinking comes about soon so that parents within Asian communities (and people in general) can at least compromise to live and let live. Love is not an emotion you can switch off, and we must respect other people’s decisions when it comes to it.