The topic of divorce in ethnic communities is one which is often swept under the rug. It’s never discussed, and it’s very rarely practiced. Unfortunately, this isn’t because we have communities full of happy families and healthy households, that isn’t the case at all. It’s because of the strong stigma that we attach to the word divorce itself. Something that needs to change.
For centuries the act of divorce has been such a taboo in ethnic families. It’s finally something which is becoming (ever-so-slightly) more common – but even now, the stigma surrounding divorce is ridiculous. It’s unfortunate in our society that many people feel more comfortable living in abusive relationships, than they do seeking help or removing themselves from toxic relationships out of fear of being ostracized or criticized by the people around them.
Domestic abuse is rampant within ethnic minorities, and even without specific numbers, studies have shown that domestic violence is more prevalent within minority ethnic communities than in other households. Yet, this is never discussed. 85% of domestic abuse victims are women, and women from ethnic communities are often raised with the understanding that it is their job to maintain the family unit. As so, when it comes to topics of divorce in ethnic families, fingers are often pointed at the women. People are quick to ignore men who don’t follow the responsibilities that they have as a father or a husband, but they don’t hesitate to blame the wife for ‘not being able to maintain the family unit’ and instead ‘taking the easy way out’. Somehow, I don’t think that the people who make these claims properly understand what it means to get a divorce, and to be perfectly clear, seeking a separation or divorce is NOT the easy way out. In fact, sometimes, it’s the ONLY way out. Getting a divorce is anything but easy – especially in a culture where doing so automatically guarantees that you have a giant invisible ‘divorced’ stamp imprinted onto your forehead. We need to stop blaming our women, and we need to start holding our men accountable.
Many people argue that a divorce would negatively impact children from the relationship (if there are any), which is a fair concern to have, but I think something that a lot of people forget is that while divorce isn’t fun for any child, it is much healthier for children to grow up in a happy and supportive home, as opposed to a toxic environment. Children are more likely to be damaged by growing up in a toxic environment, than by the process of divorce. In our communities, we need to understand the importance of raising children in stable home environments, and we need to understand that doing so is the most important thing for a child.
The stigma that surrounds the notion of divorce in our communities makes absolutely no sense to me. We don’t know what’s happening inside anyone else’s home, so we should have no say about the choices they make. By speaking ill of someone who has removed themselves from a negative situation, we’re ostracizing them for no reason – ostracizing them despite the fact that they have enough stresses without having to worry about our judgements atop everything else. Through this gossip we’re also discouraging others from seeking help, out of fear of also becoming ostracized themselves. Nobody gets a divorce for the fun of it. Can you even imagine the home-lives some of our divorced community members must have had that led them to voluntarily embracing the gossip and stigma attached to divorce in our communities? Why are we shaming them? Why are we pointing fingers at people and whispering about their divorce? Why are we carrying on this culture of toxic relationships? Why aren’t we encouraging the people around us to get help and to escape toxic relationships instead of insisting that they stay? Why has it taken us so long to understand that we need to question the way we do things?
I’m so glad that times are changing and people are slowly beginning to put their own needs ahead of the expectations of society. I’m relieved that people are beginning to understand that sometimes the need for them to leave a relationship is worth a lot more than what people have to say about it. I’m so glad. But we still have a long way to go. So much more needs to change, and the best time is now.
It’s time for us to discuss these issues. It’s time for us to question the way we’re doing things. It’s time for us to dissolve these stigmas. It’s time for us to raise our voices. It’s time.