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THE BUDDHA'S ADVICE TO A COUPLE
I- THE WIFE:
In advising women about their role in married life, the Buddha appreciated the fact that peace and harmony of a home rested largely on a woman. His advice was realistic and practical when he explained a number of day-to-day characteristics which a woman should or should not cultivate. On diverse occasions, the Buddha counseled that a wife should:
According to Buddhist teaching, in a marriage, the husband can expect the following qualities from his wife:
-love: A deep and abiding love is the most emotional and spontaneous expression of desire and self-fulfillment a husband expects of his wife. It is indeed the basis of an intimate life-long mutual relationship and the means of bringing into the world children whom they will love and cherish as long as they live. Here love is not limited to mere attachment (prema), but it is an all pervading quality of wishing for the genuine well-being of her husband.
- attentiveness: To be ever heedful, mindful and diligent, as well as to give her undivided attention to her husband's needs;
- family obligations: Besides fulfilling the duties and responsibilities of the couple's own family, the wife should also honor and respect her in-laws and deserving relatives and treat them as she would her own parents;
- faithfulness: Is associated with chastity, fidelity and steadfastness of the wife. It also implies being trust worthy and giving her constant devotion to her husband;
- Child-care: Motherly love is the foundation of all love in the world. As a devoted mother she would through her maternal instincts, even venture out at the risk of her life, for the protection of her only child;
- thrift: As the wife is entrusted with the task of home management it is incumbent on her to be that household expenditure is kept well within the family budget provided by the husband. To accomplish this task, the wife has to economize on her expenditure and exercise thrift, even to the extent of being frugal in doing so;
- the provision of meals: As the mistress of the house, it is the duty of the wife to prepare good nourishing food for the family. The family meal is an important event each day as it develops goodwill and togetherness;
- to calm him down when he is upset: When the husband returns home in an agitated state, the wife has to express herself in a soothing manner so as to pacify and comfort him. This will ease the situation;
- sweetness in everything: Besides expressing her endearing and tender feelings, the wife should also possess a charming disposition, be always cheerful, pleasant and comely.
II- THE HUSBAND
The Buddha, in reply to a householder as to how a husband should minister to his wife, declared that the husband should always honor and respect his wife, by being faithful to her, by giving her the requisite authority to manage domestic affairs and by giving her befitting ornaments. This advice, given over twenty five centuries ago, still stand good till today.
Over the centuries, male dominated societies have perpetuated the myth that men are superior to women but the Buddha made a remarkable change and uplifted the status of woman by a simple suggestion that a husband should honor and respect his wife. Such a remark may be common today, but when we consider it was made 2500 years ago, it is no less than revolutionary!
A husband should be faithful to his wife which means that a husband should fulfill and maintain his marital obligations to his wife, thus sustaining the confidence in the marital relationship in every sense of the word.
The husband being the bread-winner, has to invariably be away from home, hence he should entrust the domestic or household duties to the wife who should be considered as the custodian and manager of their property and as the home economic-administrator.
The provision of befitting ornaments to the wife should be symbolic of the husband's love, care and appreciation showered on her. This symbolic practice has been carried out from time immemorial in Buddhist communities.
Unfortunately today it is in danger of dying out because of the adverse influence of the modern way of life.
The wife expectations from the husband are:-
- tenderness: Being gentle and respectful to the wife on all matters when attending to her needs;
- courtesy: Being polite, obliging, civil and modest in his dealings and consultations with his wife;
- sociability: Being genial, friendly, communicative and compatible at all times with his wife in the company of their friends and visitors to their home;
- security: The principal objective a wife seeks in her marriage is security to be provided by her husband.
In this respect the husband is expected to be a tower of strength so as to withstand any form of external threat to the family and to provide them with adequate protection and safety at all times;
-fairness: As a responsible husband, he should be giving , compassionate and merciful as well as being charitable to deserving causes needing his assistance. As a father, he has to be just and reasonable to the demands of his growing children;
- loyalty: As an understanding husband, he should give his undivided loyalty to his wife and stand by her, through thick and thin, under any adverse situation confronting the family.
He should be steadfast in his principles and one whom the wife could, with complete confidence, depend upon in facing any untoward eventuality;
- honesty: Being a responsible husband, he has to be upright in his character and be frank with his wife on all matters affecting themselves and their children. He should not harbor any secrets from his wife as this will ultimately erode her trust and confidence in him;
- good companionship: The husband should possess an amiable personality and be able to mix with people from all walks of life. He should be knowledgeable so as to be able to engage in intelligent conversation at all levels of society and be approachable to anyone needing his assistance. He also should possess a good sense of humour to enliven his listeners who seek his companionship; and
-moral support: As a responsible husband, he should be able to stand steadfastly by his wife's side to the very end, in the face of any untoward eventuality confronting her and lend her moral support and much - needed courage to overcome such a situation.
III- HUSBAND AND WIFE
The husband is the acknowledged head of the family, unless he is incapacitated from performing his duties as such. Both in common law and under modern legislation, the husband is legally bound to support his wife and family, notwithstanding the fact that the wife has her own property or income or is capable of earning her own support.
Even today where many wives work, the nurturing of a family should be a shared experience. Husbands have no reason to shirk household duties, to help the wife and train the children, especially when there are no servants to do such work.
Apart from these emotional and sensual aspects, the couple will have to take care of day-to-day living conditions, family budget and social obligations.
Thus, mutual consulations between the husband and wife on all family problems would help to create an atmosphere of trust and understanding in resolving whatever issues that may arise.
THE FIVE DUTIES TO BE PERFORMED BY PARENTS TOWARDS THEIR CHILDREN.
According to the Buddha there are five duties that should be performed by parents toward their children.
- The first duty is to dissuade them from evil: Home is the first school, and parents are the first teachers. Children usually take their elementary lessons on good and evil from their parents. Careless parents directly or indirectly impart an elementary knowledge of lying, cheating, dishonesty, slandering, revenge, shamelessness and fearlessness towards evil and immoral activities to their children during childhood. Remember the habit of aping. Parents should therefore show exemplary conduct and should not transmit such vices into their children's impressionable mind.
- The second duty is to persuade them to be good: Parents are the teachers at home; teachers are the parents in school. Both parents and teachers are equally responsible for the future and well-being of the children, who become what they are made into. They are, and they will be, what the adults are. They sit at the feet of the adults during their im-pressionable age.
They imbibe what is imparted. They follow in their footsteps. They are influenced in thoughts, words and deeds. As such it is the duty of the parents to create the most congenial atmosphere both at home and in the school.
Simplicity, obedience, co-operation, unity, self-sacrifice, honesty, straightforwardness, service, self-reliance, contentment, good manners, religious zeal and other kindred virtues should be inculcated in their juvenile minds by degrees. Seeds so planted will eventually grow into fruit-laden-trees.
- The third duty is to give the children a good education: A decent education is the best legacy that parents can bestow upon their children. A more valuable treasure there is not. It is the best blessing that parents could confer on their children.
Education should be imparted to them, preferably from youth, in a religious atmosphere by training them to uphold noble human disciplines and humane qualities. This has a far-reaching effect on their lives.
- The fourth duty is to see that they are married to suitable individuals: Marriage is a solemn act that pertains to one's whole lifetime; this union should be one that cannot be dissolved easily. Hence, marriage has to be viewed from every angle and in all its aspects to the satisfaction of all parties concerned before the wedding.
Parents' observations of their children's life partners is important for their future married life. While parents must accept modern practices like dating and so on, children must know clearly that parents have a right to monitor their activities, know who their friends are. But there must be also a right to privacy and self respect.
According to Buddhist culture, duty supersedes right. Let both parties be not adamant, but use their wise discretion and come to an amicable settlement.
Otherwise, there will be mutual cursing and other repercussions. More often than not the infection is transmitted to progeny as well. It is said that in most cases people who perpetrate abuse of others were themselves the victims of abuse.
- The last duty is to hand over to them, at the proper time, their inheritance: Parents not only love and tend their children as long as they are still in their custody, but also make preparations for their future comfort and happiness. They acquire treasures through personal discomfort and ungrudgingly give them as a legacy to their children.
Parents who bequeath their wealth do not want their children to squander it but to benefit from the inheritance so that it will enhance their living standard. In all of this the bottom line is mutual respect, and concern for the welfare of both parents and children.
PARENTAL RESPONSIBILITIES IN THE UPBRINGING OF THEIR CHILDREN
Parenting is not like any other 9 to 5 job. It is never ending and there is never enough time to do everything. No matter how old your baby is, newborn or toddler, it is never too late to put your baby first and enjoy being a mum or dad.
Many parents think that they alone know what is best for the children and therefore expect too much from them. They force their children into tuition classes even if they can cope with their studies. At the same time they are asked to take up ballet dancing (in the case of girls), taekwando (in the case of boys), music lessons, computer classes and so on. On top of this, they insist that their children obtain straight 'A's in their examinations and excel in everything else. In this ratrace they turn their children into display objects; possessions which they can be proud to show off to their friends and relatives and for others to talk about.
In the good old days life as a child and a teenager was never stressful because there were not too many expectations to fulfil. But children these days, especially those in urban areas, seem to have so many things to do and compete in that they are deprived of a normal childhood. Many people fail to realise that as parents, they have certain rights and also responsibilities. The child has his or her rights and responsibilities too. What we have today are people who want to be super parents, but in many cases the children do not turn out to be super. Parents should therefore be realistic and reasonable. They should not set targets which they well know their children cannot fulfil, thus avoiding unnecessary stress and disappointment to the family. Building a happy family is a continuous process.
Hence parents must not only be fully aware of their role and responsibilities, but also apply modern techniques in parenting accordingly. Remember the saying of the Taoist philosopher, Zhuang Zu: 'If you have 6 fingers do not try to make them 5, and if you have 5 fingers do not try to make them 6. Do not go against nature.'
You are responsible as a concerned parent for the well-being and up-bringing of your children. If the child grows up to be a strong, healthy and useful citizen, it is the result of your efforts. If the child grows up to be a delinquent, it is you who must bear the responsibility. Do not blame others. As parents, it is your bounden duty to guide your child on a proper path. Although there are a few incorrigible cases of juvenile delinquency, nevertheless as parents, you are morally responsible for the behaviour of your children. Parental support and control have to be adjusted as the child grows. The ultimate goal of parenting is to become a friend to your child but only according to his capacity to accept responsibility. A mistake some parents make is that they want to be a friend to their six-year old. But we need to be careful about what we mean by friend. We certainly do not mean we treat a child as if he is an equal in maturity. But there must be love, trust and respect. At that age, a child needs a parent, not a friend. While building a loving and supportive relationship with the children, it is recommended that parents help them develop spiritually.
Above all you must have time for your child. Time to answer his questions, to help him understand the wonder of life. You have to bear in mind that you are stifling the creativity in your child when you do not answer the questions that he is raising. When a child is asking questions, he is indeed seeking to communicate, so the biggest challenge confronting you is to respond readily with love, and everything you do should be congruent with the natural inquisitiveness in a child.
Being spontaneous is also important in getting children involved in things and the greatest scientists have been known to be spontaneous. If parents do not know the answers to questions they must make it a point to find it out for their children instead of brushing them off and telling them that they are too busy, or it is not important, thus shutting them up and stifling their curiosity. You will feel guilty about telling your children during their most tender and inquisitive age: 'Don't ask so many questions!.' As a caring and responsible parent you should in fact respond readily to that natural inquisitiveness in your child.
The scientific way of solving a problem is to look at the problem, find all the data available and then put together a solution in a coherent manner. Likewise, a child whose curiosity meets with a favoured response will learn to think and act scientifically as well as creatively and it will serve him well into adulthood.
For instance, when you give a toy to your child, you should give it with tender love and joy. Instead, certain parents tend to almost shout: 'Don't open it like that. Don't break the toy, it is very expensive. Do you know how lucky you are to get such a toy?' So what if he indeed breaks the toy? If you can afford to buy the toy, he will quite logically think he can afford to break it.
You could instead be part of his discovery by telling him: 'Come my dear, let's open the toy box together,' and use the fun element instead of the negative element. Give the present with joy and love. It can be done if you are not stressed and unhappy yourself. You must be happy for it is only in a state of happiness that one is comfortable and generous.
Parents sometimes are to be blamed for unwittingly inculcating negative social habits in their children. For instance, a parent who asks a child to say that he or she is not in when answering a phone call ( a seemingly innocent act ) plants the first seed of falsehood in the tender mind of the young. If allowed to flourish in an environment not conducive to promoting human values, the child may well, in the future, become a destructive element to the peace, happiness and well being of family and society, and more importantly to himself.
Many parents and elders are today responsible for planting these seeds of falsehood in many different ways. They either encourage falsehood directly, or by acting or speaking falsely, initiate and allow the vicious cycle of human value degradation to develop. The fate of our children may well depend upon the parents and elders developing a right attitude to moral upbringing truth and truthful living.
Children echo the language of their parents. To prevent the use of rude or vulgar words, responsible parents should use pleasant terms, as children generally tend to imitate their parents.
A child at its most impressionable age needs the love, care, affection and attention of the parents. Without parental love and guidance, the child will be emotionally handicapped and will find the world a bewildering place to live in. Showering parental love on the other hand does not mean pandering to all the demands of the child, reasonable or otherwise. Too much pampering would in fact spoil the child. The mother in bestowing her love and care, should also be strict and firm, but not harsh, in handling the child. Show your love with a disciplined hand - the child will understand.
Parents should spend more quality time with their children, particularly during their formative years. They should consider giving their children the gift of healthy parenting instead of showering them with material presents. This gift includes building a child's self-esteem, striving for positive communication, granting unconditional love and eliminating aspects that hinder the child's psychological development. These are gifts with true, deeper meaning. Healthy parenting is the greatest gift a child can receive and a parent can give.
Unfortunately, amongst present-day parents, parental love is sadly lacking. The mad rush for material advancement, the liberation movements and the aspiration for equality among the sexes have all resulted in many mothers joining their husbands, spending their working hours in offices and shops, rather than remaining at home and tending to their off-spring. The children, left to the care of relations, day-care centres or paid servants, are bewildered on being denied tender motherly love and care.
Providing the child with all sorts of sophisticated modern toys (as a form of appeasement) such as tanks, machine guns, pistols, or swords that are detrimental to character formation is not psychologically advisable. Loading a child with such toys is no substitute for a mother's tender love and affection. The child as a result is unwittingly taught to condone aggression and destruction instead of being taught to be kind, compassionate and helpful. Such a child will develop brutal tendencies as it grows up. Devoid of parental affection and guidance, it will not be surprising if the child subsequently grows up to be a delinquent. Then, who is to be blamed for bringing up such a wayward child? The parents of course!
The working mother, especially after a hard day's work in an office, followed by household chores, can hardly find time for the child that is yearning for her care and attention. Parents who have no time for their children now should not complain later in life when these same children have no time for them. Parents who claim that they spend a lot of money on their children but are too busy should not complain when in later life their 'busy' children in turn decide to leave them in Homes for the Aged!
Most women work today so that the family can enjoy more material benefits. They should seriously consider Gandhi's advice for men to seek freedom from greed rather than freedom from need. Of course, given today's economic set-up we cannot deny that some mothers are forced to work. In such a case, the father and mother must make extra sacrifices of their time to compensate for what their children miss when they are away. If both parents spend their non-working hours at home with their children, there will be greater harmony and understanding between parents and children. We call this quality time'. with the family.
Children who are left in the care of relatives, day care centres or paid servants, as well as latch key children who are left to their own devices at home, are often deprived of motherly love and care. The mother, feeling guilty about this lack of attention, will try to placate the child by giving in to all sorts of demands. Such action only spoils the child.
Most men devote their energies and creativity to their work and thus what energy they have reserved for the family are merely the 'left overs'. Here is where the argument for quality time comes in, usually from guilty parents who want to justify whatever time they have left for their children. One of the flaws of the quality time concept lies in the fact that the needs of the children and the availability of the parents do not always converge. When the children need them, they are not around.
Parents are often placed in a dilemma. Rushing home from a hard day's work, weary parents have their own family chores waiting for them. When the day's work is done, it would be time for dinner followed by watching T.V., and whatever time there is left is hardly enough to attend to a child's rightful dues of parental love and affection. More importantly, parents are not around to transmit cultural, social and religious values to their children at times when children are best attuned to receive them. This cannot be done during 'quality time'.
Some working parents may even take their work home or even bring back the stress and tension they gathered from their work place. As a result, they may lose their tempers at the children.
As husband and wife they may not have enough time together and this may even lead to broken marriages. There should be increased awareness that strong family ties can contribute to the healthy growth of a child.
It can be said that gender differences do operate in parent/child relationships. It is said that mothers and their grown-up daughters communicate more often, even after the daughters are married and have left home.
On the other hand, it is different for fathers and grown-up sons. They are said to only speak when absolutely necessary and often about nothing serious. The conversation can be like a question and answer session.
The father perhaps thinks the son is a big boy and that he should know his role and duties at home, towards his parents and outside. But with mothers, it is different -- the daughter is forever 'my little girl'.
Whatever it is, parents have an important role to play in bringing up their children and doing it well if they want to help ease the many ills plaguing our society today. Good values cannot be taught through words, but through deeds.
Parents must be good models themselves. The old parental attitude that 'you do whatever father tells you to do and not what he does,' does not hold water any more. Parents must be of the right character themselves. If we want our children to begin life well, with the proper values, we have to start at home.
If things aren't good between the boys and their fathers, the latter must begin to look for answers within themselves.
Sacrifices by both parents are needed. They should make time and try as far as possible to get the family members involved in all activities pursued, by creating family oriented activities.
The essence is on setting their priorities right e.g. a priority oriented towards the family and marriage, thus creating a closeknit family relationship for a harmonious environment.
A HAPPY FAMILY
It is true in every society that a family is the smallest social unit. If every family in a country is happy, the whole nation will be happy. What constitutes a happy family? A happy family is defined as one that is stable in terms of social, economic, psychological and physical aspects of life; and where there is warm affection and harmony among family members. A family which can strike a balance between these factors is indeed a happy family.
But when we look around us at the situation in most parts of the world, what do we see? Children loitering in the streets and video arcades. They play truant. Children are abused, wives are beaten and ageing parents are packed off to old folks homes regardless of their feelings. All these are tell-tale signs that all is not well at the most basic level of society: these are signs of social decadence.
It is a sad situation when good values and traditions are no longer practised. There is little interaction among members of the family and friends and the sense of responsibility towards other members of the family is weakening. Unhappiness in a family may be attributed to poverty, but having material wealth is no guarantee of happiness either, if it simply breeds selfishness, cruelty and greed.
A child learns affection and love from his parents and, together, they make a happy family unit. Through this microcosm of society, it learns about caring, sharing, compassion and concern for others. Throughout the ages religion has been an important force to organize these values into a system that is easily recognized and taught. Thus family and religion are vital components in impartirng and nurturing these values.
The family plays an important role in the development of its members. The best of Asian and Western cultures teach and practise respect for elders, compassion for the sick and needy, care for elderly parents and consideration for the young.
Children growing up in families practising these values will emulate them and act accordingly towards others. But given the vast technological advances in modern civilization we are fast losing these values. Something must be done to bring the family back together and save society.
We must protect and support family development as an institution in the light of the rapid demographic and socio-economic changes world-wide. Extended families are giving way to nuclear families. We can do little to stop this trend but the values of respect, concern and compassion must be preserved. Good values, both Eastern and Western, must be maintained despite changes in lifestyle brought on by modernisation, industrialisation and urbanisation.
The mother is an important figure in family development. As care, love, tenderness and compassion are her innate qualities, she imparts these sterling values to her children in their upbringing. The mother, because of her love, concern, compassion, patience and tolerance thus holds the family together. Her espousal of these values may be passed on to her children who are great imitators and who learn by examples. We must as a group reinstate the traditional function of the mother, although of course to suit modern needs and pressures.
Religion too, promotes good human values. Strong resilient families and the practice of religion are therefore necessary in the promotion of family development.
It could be said that a happy family is a group of people living amicably and peacefully together with emphasis on religion, discipline and parenthood to create a happy family atmosphere. Values like these should be upheld and religiously protected so that a family is not influenced by anti-social values and unacceptable norms.
Realistic and reasonable parents make for a happy family. And the only way parents can build a happy family is through the institution of marriage. It worked very well in the past. It can do so now, provided we make it relevant to the needs of today's living.
Almost every day, we hear of people complaining about their marriages. Young people reading romantic novels and seeing romantic films often conclude that marriage is a bed of roses. Unfortunately, marriage is not as sweet as one thinks. Marriage and marital problems are inter-related and people must remember that when they get married, they will have to face certain problems and responsibilities that they never expected or experienced before.
After the euphoria of the wedding, the realities of living together will set in for the couple, and for some, the prospects are daunting. Lack of communication or interaction with members of a family are some of the factors which can be attributed to an unhappy morriage. A stage will be reached when husband and wife do not even communicate with each other.
Common examples of non-communication between husband and wife are: (a) even at the breakfast table he is deeply engrossed in the newspaper; (b) when he returns from work he will be engrossed with his hobbies or watches television, and during weekends goes for golf or indulges in other postimes; (c) he does not express any feelings or concern for the wife, let alone observing important anniversaries or birthdays.
The wife on her part, after getting married, is no longer interested in her figure and general appearance. She dresses shabbily. As she no longer reads or maintains a stimulating circle of friends, the husband finds that he can no longer engage in a stimulating conversation with her. Life then becomes boring and this leads the husband to resort to drink and seek solace outside the matrimonial home.
When does discontent first creep into a marriage? For most couples, the first year is usually a good year. For some couples, the adjustments of living together as husband and wife may turn out to be a stressful experience. The arrival of the first child could also give rise to problems as both man and wife grapple with the realities of being first-time parents.
Some people say that the first year after their marriage the husband would listen to his wife. From the second year the wife would listen to her husband. From the third year onwards neighbours would listen to both of them when they shout at each other.
Usually, discontent will be greater if there is no adequate preparation for marriage. For instance, pre-marital counselling will help couples prepare for the many surprises, pleasant or otherwise, that they may discover in the course of their marriage.
The dissatifaction that is supposed to hit most men after being married for so many years arises from a misconception that 'the grass is greener on the other side of the fence.' This tendency to be attracted to members of the opposite sex has no age limits. Such restlessness can occur anytime during the marriage, even for women.
Boredom is the usual cause, whereas disappointment with the partner is also a common complaint. When expectations are not fulfilled, pockets of grouses will start to develop. In any case, when there is no firm commitment to the marriage and no religious foundation, anything can happen at anytime to jeopardise it.
What are the roots of discontent? Many wives say that they wish their husbands would listen to them more, be more attentive to their needs or express their feelings better. It all boils down to a case of communication which is very much lacking in most modern marriages. In the past because of their upbringing women were content to remain in the background and accept any kind of treatment at the hands of their husbands. But times have changed. Women are much better educated, hold responsible jobs and knowledgeable of their rights. Men must accept these realities and treat their wives as equal partners in a marriage. They can no longer be taken for granted.
For most men, marriage is a goal which they set for themselves to achieve. Having done so, they will pour their energies and time into the other most important aspect of their lives, that is, their career or business.
The expectations of the woman, on the other hand are totally different. After being married, she expects more love and intimacy and therefore seeks to spend more time with her husband.
Bringing one's outside problems to the home and taking it out on the spouse and children is damaging to the family's stability and creates a stress spiral.
In Asian societies, the problem of in-law interference is a common one. This is particularly so if the in-laws are able to influence the decisions of their child. A common complaint put forward by wives is that the husbands listen to their parents instead of to them. The interference of the inlaws in the upbringing of the children is also a common problem. While the grand-parents tend to be relaxed with the children and sometimes spoil them, the conflict of values between generations is often glaring in such cases.
Some young couples are not happy to allow their children to have close association with their grand parents thinking they will learn the old fashioned way of life of their grand parents.
In India and Sri Lanka and to a lesser extent even in Malaysia, the dowry system is one of the main obstacles to a happy union. The dowry could include huge amounts of money, a bungalow, a luxury car, all of these or even more, depending on how afluent the parents are. And because parents want desperately to marry their daughters off, they make promises which they cannot keep and the marriage starts to crumble.
The dowry system has been abused. In the old days, a dowry was given to the daughter for safekeeping in case of an emergency. Then, unlike today, women were totally dependent on their husbands and the dowry was a kind of insurance in case the husband became unable to support her.
Later, the dowry was to be handed over to the in-laws for safekeeping and now it has become compulsory for the daughter-in-law's parents to present her future in-laws with the dowry.
People often think that it is a duty to get married and that marriage is a very impoftant part of their lives. However, in order to ensure a successful marriage, a couple has .to harmonise their lives by minimising whatever differences they may have between them. A couple must also learn to accept each other's shortcomings and personal weaknesses. Even happy, well-matched couples can experience conflict, hurt, disappointment and anger. They may recognise shortcomings in such areas as showing appreciation of each other, willingness to converse and expressing emotions clearly. Do not shy away from conflict. Disagreements can lead to marital growth, not distance. Quarrels are essential for survival in a healthy marriage. But a quarrel can only be successfully terminated if both parties can forgive and forget.
Be willing to work at your marriage. Do not assume that since the first 10 or 20 years were good, the next 10 or 20 will also be good. Love needs to be fed -- with shared experiences, joys and sorrows. This requires time, attention, courage and understanding.
One of the major causes of marital problems is suspicion and mistrust. Both husband and wife should show implicit trust for one another and try not to have secrets between them. Secrets create suspicion, suspicion leads to jealousy, jealousy generates anger, anger causes enmity and enmity may result in separation or divorce, suicide or even murder.
If a couple can share pain and pleasure in their day-to-day life, they can console each other and minimise their grievances. Thus, the wife or husband should not expect to experience only pleasure in their wedded lives. There will be a lot of painful, miserable episodes, burdens and misunderstandings. Discussing mutual problems with one another will give them confidence to resolve any obstacle that they will have to face. They must have the strong will-power to reduce tension and develop the confidence to live together with better understanding and tolerance.
Men and women need the comfort of each other when facing problems and difficulties. The feeling of insecurity and unrest will disappear and life will be more meaningful, happy and interesting if there is someone who is willing to share the other's burden.
Marital problems prompted a cynic to say that there can only be a peaceful married life if the marriage is between a blind wife and deaf husband, for the blind wife cannot see the faults of the husband and a deaf husband cannot hear the nagging of his wife.
LIVING TOGETHER OUTSIDE MARRIAGE
Living together before getting married, or cohabiting as it is more commonly known, is a cosy option among young people in the West, and is progressively catching on in .many Asian countries. It is said that about half of the couples in the United States and Britain would have lived together before marriage. One can learn about it in the movies and in the papers. In the conservative East, on the other hand, living together before marriage is still very much a taboo. The mere mention of the subject is enough to be frowned upon particularly by the elders. We must add however that as the world is shrinking so fast many of these values are being adopted in the East as well, especially in urban areas.
In the United States, where living together out of wedlock is becoming increasingly acceptable, one out of three marriages results in divorce.
Tragic cases do occur in situations where couples live together out of wedlock, for example when the female partner gets pregnant and the male partner later disclaims responsibility. This often leads to the problem of unwed mothers.
PROBLEMS OF UNWED MOTHERS
Media reports of unwed mothers abandoning or discarding their babies at rubbish dumps, bushes or into toilets, drains and streams are just too dreadful for any caring, right-thinking member of society to condone. With such reports appearing almost every other day, the public is alarmed, saddened and have called for remedial measures to check the growing problem which has reached alarming proportions.
Some abandoned babies survive only because they are found in time by garbage collectors, residents or passers-by, although they had been exposed to such dangers as stray dogs, rats, ants and the elements of cold/heat. One wonders how these mothers can abandon their babies, as even animals are known to be fiercely protective of their offspring. It has to be remembered that not all babies born out of wedlock are from young girls. Adult women too are guilty of this terrible practice.
Parents should try to understand their children. They should ensure that their children will turn to them whenever they have a problem.
People who abandon their babies need help. They need counselling. We should not simply blame the West every time some problems crop up here. No doubt our youngsters are getting more and more westernised in their thinking, outlook, lifestyle and actions. Here is where the role of parents comes in.
Some parents are too busy working that they unintentionally neglect their children. Hence, parents should spend more time to instil discipline and educate their children on what is wrong and right.
We need a humane approach in dealing with the problem of unwed mothers which could start with the family where parents and children do not communicate well. When it happens to a daughter, she is afraid of being penalised, of not being accepted by the family and society as well as the social stigma attached to her; and she has nobody to turn to for advice or help. She is already paying for her mistake by shouldering the burden alone. Her parents also do not accept her and society condemns her and as a result she becomes desperate.
To overcome this problem, family development efforts must be stepped up where couples will be trained to be better parents, and young people will be responsible for themselves through programmes on sex education. Religious bodies and religious counsellors can greatly assist the government to fight this terrible social desease.
SEXUAL EXPLOITATION OF CHILDREN AND CHILD LABOR
Child prostitution is one of the fastest growing businesses in many countries. Tour agencies and affluent travellers have brought about this state of affairs to a large extent.
Sex has become a multi-billion-dollar industry and today children are being bought, sold and traded like any other mass product,' deplores Aaron Sachs, a staff researcher at the Washington - based World Institute.
'At 10, you are a woman. At 20, you are an old woman. And at 30, you are dead.' Thus goes a popular saying in certain countries.
In the ever expanding sex market, child prostitutes are among the hottest commodities. This is particularly true in Asia, the centre of the child sex industry. The Progress of Nations 1995 report of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) lists Thailand as the third country with the most number of child prostitutes. About 100,000 children are selling sex in this country. The record holder is India with 400,000 to 500,000 children. The United States is second with 300,000. The Philippines is fourth with 60,000.
The number of under 18s involved in prostitution probably exceeds two million,' the report says. 'Best estimates suggest a figure of one million for Asia alone, and 300,000 for the United States.'
Although most of the child prostitutes are girls, in many parts of the world even boys are used for sex.
Rich tourists, according to an official of the non-government watch group ECPAT (End Child Prostitution in Asian Tourism), 'have realised that human life is cheaper in the Third World.'
Why has child prostitution become popular in recent years? One possible reason is the fear of being infected by HIV, the virus that causes the dreaded Acquired Immuno-deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).
Sex tourists think children are AIDS-free. 'With the growing fear of HIV infection, many people are always on the search for younger and younger victims, and the demand unfortunately has been met by the 'ever-eager middleman,' observes Ramesh Shrestha, a UNICEF official based in Hanoi, Vietnam.
Experts cite poverty as the reason children are forced into the sex trade. 'Children are attracted to prostitution because it pays better than odd jobs,' Philippine Senator Ernesto F. Herrera said in his recent privilege speech. Children of the streets of Rio, Nairobi, Manila and Bombay often get involved in prostitution in order to survive and not by choice, a world congress against sexual exploitation of children observed. The congress has cast a harsh light on the conditions of poor children around the world, being forced out in life to find work without any schooling.
In some other countries, street children are among the first to be recruited into prostitution and often kept in brothels. Others drift into prostitution on a more casual basis and not as part of any network. With no family they simply have to find a way to survive. Social dislocation push these children into a means of earning a living, which they know is dishonourable but provides a more comfortable compensation.
In Latin America, street children come from among the poorest families, often from violent areas, frequently thrown out by the family, according to Per-Erik Astrom of the Swedish branch of the 'Save the Children Fund'. He said: 'A child of 15 in Rio, if he has lived that long, knows everything about survival, owns two younger sisters and has become a pimp himself!'
A Chilean organisation, CERSO report: 'Mothers send their children on to the streets to beg although they know the dangers that the girls may end up as drug addicts and prostitutes.' For more than 10 years now, Ladawan Wongsriwong, a two-time Member of Parliament from the northern Thailand province of Payco, has been fighting against child prostitution, an industry estimated to be worth US$1.5 billion (RM3.6 billion) annually.
Her crusade against this social ill involves a four-pronged strategy that includes a campaign to make people understand the causes, effects and ways to check the problem.
Although people generally have more understanding of the problem, there are parents who still hang on to the old idea that prostitution is indeed a good career fetching a high income for their daughters. We are trying to change all that by also having training workshops, meetings and seminars with parents as well as dissemination of information through the mass media', says Ladawan, 40, who is from Thailand's opposition Democrat Party and President of the Young Northern Women's Development Foundation.
Ladawan says for the legislation to work effectively, it is imperative that all countries come to an agreement and co-operate to consider women and child abuse as a criminal offence because the child prostitution problem is not only the making of Thai people alone, as foreigners have a part in it too.
The demand from European tourists and those from other developed countries for young girls seems limitless. According to the international children's advocacy group, Terre Des Hommes, each year tens of thousands of sex tourists from Germany alone visit Thailand, with about 10% of them engaging in sex with minors. It is a fact that young girls from poor families, who are deprived of continuing their education at secondary level, are being lured into prostitution.
It has been reported that a Swiss business man sexually abused 1500 children in Sri Lanka within a period of eight years!
There is a growing industry of commercial sexual exploitation of children for pornographic purposes. Thailand has the highest record of child trafficking and juvenile pornography. This accounts for the most profane type of paedophile material available in illicit video collections containing scenes of homosexual paedophilic depravity.
The recent discovery of a gruesome kidnapping and paedophilic ring in Belgium has awakened public opinion and dramatically illustrated the fact that sexual exploitation of children is not a problem only in Thailand, Brazil, Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka; it exists practically in every country including Europe. The World Congress against commercial sexual exploitation of children has initiated co-operation at local, national and international levels to combat the child sex problem. Considering the level of international commitments, the World Congress has outlined priorities for the prevention, protection, rehabilitation and reintegration of child victims of sexual exploitation.
The term 'child labour' is defined as the employment of boys and girls when they are too young to work for hire, or when they are employed at jobs unsuitable or unsafe for children of their ages or under conditions injurious to their welfare. The term has had different meanings at various times and in -various communities, depending on society's concept of its responsibility for its youth.
In Malaysia, the employment of children is governed by the provisions of the Children and Young Persons (Employment) Act 1966, which state that a child, or any person below 14 years of age, may not be employed except under certain strict conditions, such as light work suitable for his or her capacity in any undertaking carried out by the family. Under separate conditions, such as employment in shops the child must not be less than 16 years old.
The Malaysian Labour Department has intensified its enforcement activities in the light of increasing complaints involving illegal child labour, especially during the school holidays. The illegal employment of children stems primarily from the acute shortage of labour in the country. The enforcement activities of the department have been intensified nation-wide through scheduled inspections as well as surprise raids both during the day and night.
Child experts at a regional meeting in Manila said they needed not just more resources for children's welfare, but also greater involvement of the media in conveying the plight of Asia's vulnerable children to policymakers.
'Children who are poor, exploited or forced to work, remind the world that economic growth has not given them the benefits of prosperity,' said Pratima Kale, Regional Director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) for East Asia and the Pacific. 'The situations of inequity can and often do lead to anger, frustration and violence if their basic needs are not met; if their basic rights are not fulfilled; and if they do not see any hope for the future,' she said at the start of the Asian Summit on Child Rights and Media.
Sex deviations, sometimes called sexual aberrations, have concerned mankind almost from earliest recorded history. It is customary to refer to persons exhibiting what we could call sexual deviations, or departures from what modern society agrees to be normal, as sex perverts. Thus many persons, otherwise well informed in their own minds, have categorised and speak of them casually as perverts, sexual psychopaths, sex neurotics and so on, often without understanding very clearly the condition to which they refer. Our social customs seem to compel society to look upon a sex deviant as one bringing disgrace to his family.
Sex deviations such as homosexuality, bisexuality, transvestism have long been taboo subjects rarely brought up in polite conversation by respectable society. Strange as it may seem, teenagers today however are far more well-informed and open minded in their views on this subject.
More often than not, one associates the word 'homosexual' with effeminate men or men in drag. This is the stereotypical image of homosexuality that, like most stereotypes, conveniently obscures its complexity.
The word 'homosexuality' applies to people who are sexually and emotionally attracted to others of the same sex. Both men and women can be called 'homosexual' or 'gay', but these are only umbrella terms under which lie many shades of distinctions.
Broadly speaking, homosexuals comprise gay men, transvestites (both male and female), trans-sexuals (female and male) and lesbians.
And to complicate things further, there is a very fine distinction between the interchangable terms, 'transvestite' and 'trans-sexual'. As most dictionaries explain it, a transvestite is a person who dresses in the clothes of the opposite sex, often deriving gratification from this practice.
On the other hand, a trans-sexual is (as commonly understood) someone who has decided to live as a person of the opposite sex. Sometimes, a trans-sexual's identification with the opposite sex is so strong that he or she goes for a sex-change operation.
Some people who practise transvestism may not be gay; they may just enjoy wearing the clothes of the opposite sex without being sexually attracted to members of the same sex.
A gay is attracted to men of his own kind- gays, and not 'straight' men. When asked why a normal looking man would fall in love with another, he would say that there is nothing abnormal about him. Most people however find it difficult to accept gays as normal people.
Transvestites and trans-sexuals, on the other hand, consider themselves, and are considered by the gay community, as women. They generally feel that they are women trapped in male bodies. And as women, they are attracted to straight men, and not to gay man.
The world is indeed very much a lonely and hostile place for transvestites and trans-sexuals. It is difficult for them to have meaningful relationships as very few straight men are willing to face the social stigma and emotional hassles that come with having a transvertite partner.
What causes a person to be gay? According to some researchers, sexual and emotional attraction for a partner of the same sex may be a genetic trait, although social factors and upbringing are also thought to play a role. Homosexuality is not a medical or psychiatric disorder, although regarded as abnormal by many. Homosexuality was removed from the list of mental disorders in the early 1970s when it was obvious that homosexuals are as psychologically welladjusted as heterosexuals are. They have the same capacity to function in society, to achieve goals, to have their needs met, and to develop a sense of identity.
However, transvestism is considered a mental disorder, as transvestites have the feeling of being trapped in a man's body, causing a lot of inner turmoil, whereas gay men are totally comfortable with their maleness.
Although homosexuals may have accepted their sexual orientation, society may not be ready to accept them. They may be prepared to share their thoughts and feelings with family members and close friends, but not so in public. A homosexual person may go through several stages before coming to terms with himself or herself. They probably can't do anything about their 'condition', and we should not contribute to the prevailing social pressure that forces many of them to hide their true selves in the closet. From the Buddhist point of view this kind of sexual act can be regarded as sexual misconduct to those who try to renounce sensual pleasure in order to lead a holy life. For others this can be regarded as sex abuse.
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