Social Shift

By Richa P

Watching this inspiring clip from Girl Rising has me wondering about shifting cultural and social constructs. I saw this documentary sometime last year but it got me thinking because even when countries create laws for equality among it’s citizens, social acceptance and practice don’t change overnight.

Rumors have it that Nepal may be the first country in South Asia to legalize same sex marriage. This would be awesome if it happens but would anything change for the better? Nepal has had many laws trying to create fairness among all it’s citizen, but damaging social practices still exist. For example, child labor and bonded labor is illegal but there have been recent stories about young children being forced to make bricks and being treated like slaves. How many people (perhaps including ourselves) do we know who still employ children to “help” around the home. We may think we are assisting them because we are providing them with a home, food, and access to education but most of them probably aren’t being treated with love, care, and affection.

I have a relative in Nepal who has had their child worker for many years. He is in his teens now and is going to school. This is the first time, I have seen a family treat their worker so well. He has his own room in the house, he gets invited to various family functions, they celebrate his birthday, he is included in different family pictures, and most of all, they interact with him outside of his chores. He loves painting and drawing and they always make sure he has enough supplies. I am not trying to justify and say that child labor is acceptable but if you are going to do it, there is clearly a good way and a bad way.

Even if same sex marriage becomes legal in Nepal, individually people will still hold their prejudices and judgement. It would be a great feat for our country but that doesn’t mean we will treat gay people any kinder. It doesn’t mean that we won’t try to disown our own family members because they are different. I am positive people would rather have their children marry a non-Nepali person than have a gay child. Can we not understand that they are just like us with the same hopes, goals, and desires?

What will it take for us as individuals and as a society move beyond ourselves and move beyond thinking we are superior to others? How can we see other people as just people and not their race, religion, sexual orientation, disability, gender, age, etc etc? Most of us are compassionate people but we still tend me make quick judgments. Yes, I admit, I do it too. Even though I am a female, I am a privileged one in Nepali society. I belong to the upper caste, I have a last name that is recognizable, sometimes things come easy to me because of what I represent.

How will we be able to move past these social constructs?

Anyway, if you haven’t seen the whole documentary, I highly recommend it. You can watch various clips on YouTube.

*Please share your thoughts. How do you think we can shift cultural norms and expectations? Are you someone that has done something different from the norm? Are you different from a “typical” Nepali, how have people reacted to that?

4 thoughts on “Social Shift

  1. Anonymous says:

    Nice piece Richa! Legalising something and implementing same thing do not go hand in hand in lots of cases in Nepal. Sad but true. Change takes generations.

  2. Beautifully said, Richa! There is a cultural shift, as well as an legal/institutional shift needed in most cases, as you point out. AND, there are some powerful examples of changes in law leading to broader changes in cultural norms – for example, the Abolitionist movement in the US that advocated for the end of slavery was a very very small minority that pushed for a transformative change in the nation’s laws. Obviously, racism – both individual and institutional – still exists in the US, but that would never have changed without that change in law.

    • Richa says:

      Thanks Chris. You are so right. We can’t really begin to establish change if the laws aren’t clear, at least that way people who still commit hate crimes can be held accountable.

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