Growing up in a Nepali household is no easy feat. Throughout my life, I found myself constantly struggling to convey my needs and problems to my parents, often resulting in heated arguments and subsequent silence. Today, I wish to share some chapters from my life that shed light on the challenges my parents faced in comprehending Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR).
Chapter 1: Veiled Whispers of Puberty
As I entered adolescence, my body underwent mysterious changes. However, my parents never broached the subject of puberty, leaving me bewildered and riddled with unanswered questions. The whispers of my own body became a constant reminder of the silent struggle within me, and I yearned for guidance.
Chapter 2: The Mysterious Menstruation Talk
One day, my mother sat me down and briefly explained menstruation. While I had already heard about it from friends, I was grateful that my mother took the initiative to discuss it with me. However, her explanation left me unprepared and confused about practical matters like how to use pads. It was only after I experienced my first period, with my mother out of town, that I truly realized the extent of my knowledge gap.
Chapter 3: The Unspoken Shadows
The shadows of taboo loomed over our home whenever the topic of sex arose. Condom advertisements on TV or kissing scenes in movies were met with uncomfortable silence. Whenever I mustered the courage to ask how babies were born, the topic was skillfully evaded. The potential for enlightening and empowering conversations was squandered by discomfort and evasion.
Chapter 4: Boundaries and the Boyfriend Barrier
From an early age, I implicitly understood that being friends with boys was somehow considered unacceptable. Instead of fostering an environment where I could learn about consent, boundaries, and healthy relationships, my parents replaced curiosity with threats and warnings to stay away from boys. Their concern was not solely for my protection; it stemmed from deeply ingrained beliefs that perpetuated gender divisions and hindered my ability to understand and navigate relationships in a healthy and respectful manner.
Chapter 5: Embracing Diversity and Acceptance
The taboo surrounding discussions about sexuality extended beyond rigid gender roles. My parents harbored deep-rooted prejudices and discomfort when it came to homosexuality. Whenever the topic arose, they vehemently expressed their disdain, claiming that being gay was unnatural and defied the very fabric of nature. Their discomfort was clear in their language, as they resorted to derogatory slurs when referring to individuals who identified as LGBTQ+. Despite my efforts to engage them in meaningful conversation and shed light on the importance of acceptance and understanding, my words fell on deaf ears. The topic remained untouched, brushed aside as though it did not exist—a seemingly unspeakable phenomenon.
Conclusion: A Journey of Unlearning and Growth
Reflecting on my journey, it becomes clear that my parents' struggles with SRHR education exceeded mere lack of knowledge. Their upbringing and societal conditioning erected barriers that stifled open conversations about critical aspects of human development, consent, and acceptance.
Moving forward, I am committed to breaking down these barriers within myself and in my interactions with others. I will continue advocating for comprehensive sexual education that encompasses consent, boundaries, and respect for all individuals, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation.
Together, we can dismantle the culture of secrecy, foster open dialogue, and create a society that embraces diversity while cherishing the rights and well-being of every individual. Let us strive to be agents of change, challenging norms and unlearning prejudices that impede progress. With empathy, education, and understanding, we can pave the way for a future where SRHR is celebrated and all individuals are empowered to lead healthy, fulfilling lives.