There have been a number of high profile murders in the South Asian community in Surrey over the years. Even one is too many as far as I am concerned.
As a Punjabi male born into a Sikh family I am really disgusted by these acts of violence which go against everything I was taught as a Sikh. It is our call of duty to protect the marginalized, oppressed, vulnerable, and weak and advocate for equality, humanity, dignity, and respect for all.
These acts of violence show a lack of respect and value for life. The community should rise to protect all vulnerable and relatively powerless people including Punjabi women. This violence, otherwise, tears apart the life of a friend, neighbour, sister, daughter, wife, and of course mothers.
What is even more depressing is sometimes the immediate and extended family members support this violence to protect their relatively privileged male sons. No use denying the fact that sons are favoured in our culture, to the point where even the state of Punjab in India has one of the highest rates of female infanticide in the country.
In a home where there is domestic violence, the home environment becomes toxic for the victim especially if there are children involved. They psychological and emotional damage can lead to life-long trauma and developmental difficulties for children in later life. Not to mention, what message does violence against women send to our next generation of daughters and their role and place in society? Our culture is setting them up for a potentially unsafe, toxic, and dangerous life. The violence repeats itself from generation to generation. Men and boys learn what they are taught from their fathers and families.
I would like to clarify that I do not wish to imply that all South Asian, Punjabi, or Sikh households have a problem with domestic violence. It could be argued that all cultures have a problem with domestic violence. What I am saying is that even one household or one victim is too many and that I would like to see a response from our South Asian community to resolve the issue before it becomes a social norm.
There are many factors which contribute to violence against woman such as patriarchy, cultural and social norms, and social attitudes. I feel it’s about time to challenge these cultural factors and for the South Asian community to take steps to protect future generations of South Asian women, children, and families.
What can be done? As a social worker who has lived in Surrey for over twenty years, I would like to put forward the following five (5) ideas for discussion in the broader South Asian community and context.
- After marriage, the groom can go live with the bride’s family. I don’t see why this cannot be a preferred option for the newly married couple in our culture?
- If the above is not an option, the bride and groom can live together in their own independent home. This will make it easier for the bride if she is a victim of domestic violence to obtain a restraining order because she won’t be pressured by her in-laws to continue being a victim and suffer in silence for the sake of the family.
- Family assets and inheritance can be equally distributed between male and female children instead of favoring the surviving sons.
- The practice of dowry needs to be abolished in all South Asian cultures.
- The bride’s father should not be expected to disproportionately pay for the wedding. The cost of the wedding should be paid for by the bride and groom and both sets of parents. If one parent happens to be financially well off then it makes sense for them to contribute more.
There you go! Five very simple ideas that can bring about progressive social change in our community. The ideas try to get to the partial root source and provide a preventative approach to domestic violence and women’s inequality.
Hopefully, these ideas will lead to more equality, fairness, and protection for vulnerable women and children in the South Asian community.
Alex Sangha is a registered social worker who lives and works in Surrey, B.C. A published author, his latest book “Catalyst” was a Finalist in the Current Events and Social Change category of the Next Generation Indie Book Awards for 2014. He is also the recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for Social Work and Community Service.