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 duty to protect the marginalized, oppressed, vulnerable and weak, and advocate for equality, dignity and respect for all.
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 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. The psychological and emotional damage can lead to lifelong trauma and developmental difficulties for children in later life.
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 that contribute to violence against women, such as patriarchy and social norms and attitudes. I feel it’s time to challenge these factors and for the South Asian community to take steps to protect future generations of women, children and families.
What can be done? As a social worker who has lived in Surrey for more than 20 years, I would like to put forward the following five ideas for discussion:
• After marriage, the couple can go live with the bride’s family.
• 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 a victim to obtain a restraining order, because she won’t be pressured by her in-laws to suffer in silence for the sake of the family.
• Family assets and inheritance can be equally distributed between male and female children, instead of favouring the surviving sons.
• The practice of dowry needs to be abolished.
• The bride’s father should not be expected to disproportionately pay for the wedding.
There you go! Five 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, Surrey