Wednesday, 14 April, 2021

Creating Space For Everyone

Nishtha Shrestha

Every relationship needs boundaries. Though the phrase-- love is blind-- is used to explain the type of attachment among couples, consent is the cornerstone of a healthy relationship. Whether we blame the movies or the Western culture, being in a romantic relationship at an early age has become common. One can debate about this trend in the society but in the midst of this fight, we are failing to teach the young generation the need for consent. The recent incident of a 19-year-old, who was set on fire by her male friend, shows the need to address this issue in our society.
When we meet a person, we expect our efforts to be reciprocated. This is a normal expectation. But a conversation can only sustain when both parties are equally interested in the exchange. Eve-teasing, cat calling or any other form of harassment is the result of an imbalance in this interaction. To add to this, the portrayal of denial as a sign of shyness or hidden interest has made it difficult to reject an advance from the opposite sex. Women are constantly subjected to such interactions where the fear of retaliation is higher than the safety concerns. It is easier to blame women for creating such situations but everyone has a right to say no at any point when the situation feels threatening to oneself.
We are failing to teach the rules of relationship to the young generation. While the incident mentioned above has occurred in the past as well, if we do not take measures now, the problem will continue to impact many lives. The first step we can take is to teach the youngsters about the ways to control their emotions. It does not mean restricting their freedom to explore but to teach them ways to manage difficult emotions in a healthy manner. If adults can teach how to handle a rejection, anger, jealousy, etc. from a young age, they can apply these skills when they enter a relationship. The common mentality among people that boys express their love through aggression has to be changed. This excuse prevents boys from learning how to share their needs appropriately and encourages them to behave like the cavemen who used this tactic to find their mate.
Consent is another important lesson that needs to be taught from schools. We take permission when we speak to our elders but we forget that this has to be practised with everyone in our lives. Taking consent and accepting the response is a sign of respect. Similar to how we value our freedom to make choices, the other person also has this right to decide on how to engage with people in their lives.
At a young age, it is hard to view a situation from different perspectives but this is a skill that can be taught. This skill prevents them from internalising the rejection or anger in the relationship and understanding that the emotions of the other person do not negate their own. If small steps like these can prevent such crimes, then it is an effort worth taking to create a safe space for everyone.