The push and pull between East and West among South Asian Canadians

This my followup post to the Yin and Yang of being a South Asian Canadian women. In my previous post, I explained the concept of honor in South Asian culture. Now, I will elaborate on how Young South Asian Canadian teens have to always struggle between the more dominant western culture and the traditional culture of their parents. It can be quite a confusing time. First of all, many South Asian parents are conservative and many things considered normal in the West are taboo in places like India and Pakistan. Some of the taboos are premarital sex, drinking alcohol, women living independently etc. Now there are people in India who partake in all these activities and more. Nevertheless, there is a stigma attached to all this for large swathes of Indian population.

So, a South Asian teen curious about sex doesn’t really have anywhere to turn to. Luckily Canadian schools provide sex education but this isn’t discussed at homes. Teens curious about alcohol or dating hide it from their parents. They do all this precisely because they will be judged harshly by the South Asian community and might bring dishonor to the family. This frankly is a big problem as it puts many teens in precarious situations with no parental supervision. It is something South Asian community needs to work on.

On the other hand are South Asian teens who might embrace some ideals from western culture such as democracy, rule of law, equality for all regardless of race, gender, age or sexuality. However, they also adopt some cultural or religious values from South Asia. This means teens who might believe in abstinence before marriage, filial piety or even arranged marriage. These teens can also get judged for being too conservative, too fobby and not being Canadian enough.

In both of my examples, teens who emulate western culture get judged for being too decadent, full of vices. Teens who adopt some traditional values get judged for being prudish, religious zealots. I personally feel like we need to let people make their choices as long as it is not infringing upon others. Someone who believes in abstinence isn’t prudish. A woman who has premarital sex isn’t a whore. It is all about making choices that are right for you. This battle between east and west continues to happen. In the meantime, South Asian community needs to address taboo issues and get rid of the honor concept. The mainstream Canadian society needs to stop judging people based on clothing and appearance. A woman wearing a hijab or a man wearing turban can still believe in democracy and equality but they shouldn’t fell pressured to give up religious or cultural values.



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