Friday, June 26, 2015

Is teenage parenthood very different than child marriage?

This question came up in my mind during one of my discussions with my daughter, we were discussing about merits and demerits of high school kids dating each other. Teenage dating specially in high schools is a part of modern day culture in many developed countries, even in developing countries like India it is becoming very common (at least in cities). In countries like US normally dating starts during high school or middle school and in countries like India it normally starts during college (after high school) where boys and girls start claiming that they have a boyfriend or a girlfriend. The main reason for this time difference is that in India high schools still have very restricted environment with requirement of uniforms, lot of rules and regulations about appearance and many of them are not even a co ed schools where as in US there is relatively unrestricted and free environment in schools (which I think is good). Teenage is a very important phase of any individual's life, many physical and psychological changes takes place in us. We get transformed physically and well as mentally a lot during these years. This can be called as our transition phase of our transformation from child into adult. Many of us get aware of our own sexuality, this is also the time when we start getting attracted towards other person sexually. So I guess dating (in most cases between boy and girl) is a result of all these changes. In many western countries it is a socially accepted phenomena. Most TV shows or movies propagate this culture, and because of heavy marketing and sophisticated propaganda dating has become like a necessary activity during high school days for most kids. There is tremendous peer pressure on kids to fit into this culture, many of them desperately seek for a partner to call him/her their boyfriend or girlfriend. There are relationships which are formed and destroyed, this eventually leads to things like breakups and frustrations associated with it. Kids have to deal with all these things along with pressure their studies, homework, college preparations, expectations of their parents, etc. Some of them manage these things very well, some just can't and suffer from depression, anxiety, panic and many other problems. This has also created a very serious problem of teenage pregnancies. This issue of underage (less than 18 years) girls becoming pregnant and eventually teen age moms and dads is a very important issue. This is important for future of those new born infants as well as their underage parents. School kids becoming parents has to be a serious matter for any society. How can a kid can bear a complete responsibility of another kid? Many people might say that teenage pregnancy or parenthood is a totally separate issue but according to me it is very closely related with this underage dating culture.

Fortunately child marriage is illegal in most parts of the world today, it used to be a very common thing not very long ago. But today many countries have strong law against child marriage and it has reduced significantly. In this case kids were forced to enter into relationship without even knowing about what that relationship actually means. In this case everything was done under family's guidance as kids used to be very young as there was no age limit to get marry. This was a socially accepted phenomena in many societies (India was one of them) but we all know that it was a terrible practice. Many people misused this system and many marriages can be termed as clear case of child abuse. But this ridiculous practice stopped because it created many social problems like issue of child widows. These young girls used to become widows before even knowing that they were married and then they were forced to live very restricted life for no fault of theirs. Many old men used to marry girls much younger than them by misusing this system, this all resulted in social uproar against this system and slowly it was abolished socially and legally.

Friendship is very beautiful thing and essential part of our lives. Many of our serious and long lasting friendships are formed during school and college days. But it seems someone felt that for high school kids just friendship is not enough they also need to have more serious relationship and teenage dating was invented. There is lot of attraction about opposite sex at that age so this invention obviously found many takers became an instant hit. There are merits and demerits associated with this phenomena, specially when there is possibility of sexual encounter associated in these type of relationships. As kids many times they don't understand the consequence of their acts, sexual intercourse is a physical act but it can have many physical and emotional consequences. Apart from its biological consequences it can also have emotional and social consequences. Emotional and social consequences might differ from person to person but biological consequences are same for all. Biology doesn't care whether you are a teenager or adult, whether it is a consensual sex or a rape, any careless or unprotected sexual act can result in pregnancy which can result in reluctant parenthood and being a parent is a huge personal and social responsibility. According to me teenage pregnancy is a byproduct of this uncontrolled dating culture which starts too early in kids lives, so early that many of them don't even know what relationship means and what are the consequences of some of their actions. Proper sex education and spreading awareness about these issues is the only way to handle this problem of teenage parenthood. There needs to be a sense among today's youth about what is proper and what is improper sexual behavior. School years are very important part of anyone's life, this is the time to learn new things, get ready to face new challenges of future and form long lasting friendships, school is not a place to look for a life partner or indulge in sexual acts.

Culture of child marriage was abolished because many people started misusing it, this rampant misuse made some people to protest against it and slowly that protest created a big social movement which abolished that practice from many societies. I always feel sorry for kids who are busy in thinking about their partner's likes and dislikes or how to get over breakups or whether someone is sexually attracted towards them or not. They all do these things at the age when they should be enjoying their school life without thinking about such complicated things. We all get ample time in out lives starting from our college days to worry about these things but school days are not the time to worry about these things. School life has its own style of romance but depression, breakups and anxiety was not supposed to be part of that romance (and it wasn't at least during my school days). I know that teenage parenthood and child marriage are totally different subjects but somehow I see some parallels in both of them, may be I am wrong that is why I would like to know what others feel about this issue.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

[Copyright : Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]

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