In the news recently we have heard about the gang rape on a bus in New Delhi of an Indian woman who ultimately died from injuries sustained by the brutal attack. Hearing this on all the news agencies several people across the nation were appalled at the lax attitudes by police toward sexual crimes against women (RTE News, 2012). Women in India are harassed on a daily basis from cat calls, touching them in public and rape with no assistance from the police as they refuse to take statements (RTE News, 2012). This outrageous act of barbaric behavior just represents a small portion of what women from India and Indian traditions. Women are very seldom given a choice of things as reporting to police the act of rape against her to choosing her partner to be wed to.
Asian Indians practice Hindu and are extremely family orientated; this includes immediate family and extended family as well. The Asian Indian culture has different ideals then the American culture, however, there are similarities. The culture as formulated in India depicts multi generational entities such as the in-laws live within the same home as the family. Husbands are the ultimate bread winner and handle issues with outsider, the wife cares for the home and finances and family, the grandparents usually do the child rearing (Gordon, Bernadett, Evans, Shapiro, & Patel n.d).
Indian marriage practices in India are as much about families coming together as the couples coming together. When a women becomes the marriageable age “aunties” start looking for potential life partners (Sweas 2012). Match making is practiced by Indians of the Hindu faith both in India and here in the United States.
Once a match is found and arrangements made, the two families meet to discuss dowry, time, and location of the wedding while the perspective couple sits and exchange glances. If the families agree, they shake hands and set a date for the wedding (Flanigan, 2000).
Many women both in India and the United States believe that being promised to a partner, expected to wear veils and clothing that hide faces and body is not freedom of choice. There have been women who have committed suicide because of pressures of arranged marriages, the unknown, disapproval, and the embarrassment to the family. Even though the arranged marriage or covering the body is not practiced much in the United States it but still poses a crisis to the young women that have adapted to or born into the American culture.
In the United States the second generations of Asian Indian women have begin adapting to the customs of dating and picking their partner, wearing less veils and large dresses. The belief in knowing their partner and compatibility before marriage, and showing individuality is beginning to surface and slowly being accepted into the Asian Indian culture. However, this newness of change does have effects on the first generation and the acceptance of women making their own choice. The majority of Asian Indian families continue to be very strong in the Indian culture and believe that a woman is to be promised to a potential partner in an arranged marriage.
In India and the United States women are taught and expected to cover all or part of their face with a veil or some other covering. Girls generally begin wearing veils after reaching puberty (Hays, 2009). The Asian Indian culture forbidden from exposing their heads, hair, neck, and the curves of their bodies in public (Hays, 2009).
However, in the United States Asian Indian women of the second generation have adapted to the choice of veiling and covering. First generation Indian’s are slowing coming to terms with this new found freedom, but there are still plenty of families that practice old traditions.
Women of India and the United States who follow tradition veil themselves is so that they will not tempt men and maintain their chastity and honor and the chastity and honor of men around them. Women’s rights activists are divided on the issue of dress some see it to be a choice to wear what they want and others see it as a symbol of oppression (Hays, 2009)
Counseling a young Asian Indian woman with concerns of how her family may take her decision to choose her own partner would primarily focus on her feelings, belief and strength in the culture she was born into. Secondly, the young woman would receive information about ways to introduce the decision to the elders of the family unit how it is not a disgrace to family in the United States to make ones choice of a partner for marriage.
One thing to keep in mind when intervening in this sort of crisis is this culture of lifelong traditions. So insisting that this is a wrong and insensitive manner of marriage would increase the anxiety and depression levels these women feel. The probability of suicide increasing is great. One must remember that women of this culture are raised to believe they are the lesser of the two genders, they have their spot in the family make-up, and choice of who to love and the desire of compatibility is not included in this make-up.
The Indian culture views the American people as not having a culture and don’t have strong family relationships. American parents disown (let free) their children after they are 18. Americans don’t care for their elderly parents and leave them at centers for the elderly care (Kale, 2008).
Seeing how the culture and lack of respect for women and their rights as human beings I see how things need to change for Indian women in both the United States and India. Although some customs and traditions are slowly changing for Indian women in the United States they are still demoralized by male family members and some outsiders. The lack of respect and high expectations from male family members and first generation Asian Indians is not only demoralizing but emotional abuse.
Knowing this information will assist in counseling Indian women seeking to become more independent, such as education, choices of living at home or on their own, what to wear, and most of all the partner they will share their life with. This knowledge will help in the evaluations of individuals and the support mechanisms they receive.
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