We say ‘love is worth fighting for’ but how many of us would actually do it? What kind of love would we really fight for — the love of a parent, a child, a spouse or a friend? Unrequited love or long lost love, love scorned or love mourned? What exactly would we fight for? Most of us don’t know, haven’t had to ask, because we are never faced with the question. Recently, however, I was.
Love of country sends us to war and for this love we fight, sometimes we even die. But other types of love, well, we may like to say we will fight for it, in the fairytale sense, but few of us really mean it. Two weeks ago, however, I was faced with the question of whether I would fight for my love. My ex-husband was in India, visiting his family. He had been there for nearly 2 months without issue when we lost contact for 4 weeks. During this time I got word from one of his friends that he was in trouble, he was being held against his will by his family and they were trying to force him to marry. I was faced with a choice: wait passively and accept what comes, give up and walk away, or fight for him. I chose the latter.
In my heart it was an easy choice. I did for him he same he would do for me. But it was not as easy for everyone else. Many I knew were supportive but they did not, could not, relate to my situation. Their support was based on friendship or because they were they type of people who believed the best in others. Others were outright distrustful and voiced fears such as “How do you know he really loves you if he hasn’t contacted you? What if he has left you?” Although I knew he had not left me, I could not prove it. The real question the doubters seemed to be asking was “Is it really love if you have to fight for it?”
Truth be told, in this day and age, in the Western part of the world, we are not faced with needing to fight for love, at least not relationship love. We can love who we chose, marry or divorce without much consequence. Sure, there are struggles and exceptions but generally, the need to actively fight for love, to engage in battle, seems arcane, unnecessary and therefore suspicious to Westerners. In India, however, love is not only worth fighting for, but to engage in love, one must be prepared to fight, sometimes even to the death.
India is a country of contrasts. While India is rapidly becoming a global economic power, its culture is stuck in traditions that are thousands of years old — 90% of marriages in India are arranged by the family with 48% of young women forced to marry before they turn 18. [Source] The expectation of young people in India is that they must obey their family above all, familial duty is more important than their own desires. While some families may be more open than others, allowing the option of love marriage, this is not the norm. Times are changing, however, as more young people interact through social media and go to college, relationships are forming outside of the family, and more couples are falling in love. This increase in “love couples” are creating a clash between modern views and cultural traditions as the families, caste councils (groups which set the rules for village communities) and even police try to enforce the arranged marriages, blocking love.
The consequence of choosing love over duty can be dire as some families resort to honor killings (the homicide of a member of a family due to the belief that the victim has brought dishonor or shame upon the family [Source]) as retribution for the love betrayal.
According to the Love Commando’s founder, Sanjoy Sachdev, nearly 10,000 “love marriage” murders occur each year in India. [Source]
In America, we are familiar with these barbaric practices in countries in the Middle East and Africa but few realize it is happening in India, the same country that gives us Bollywood, an endless supply of programmers and our global telemarketing center. We see India in romantic, exotic terms which we don’t fully understand but the general impression is of its beauty and glamor. Even with the recent news reports of the brutal rapes that have occurred in India (which I feel is connected culturally to the frustration of not being able to date, express affection or love who you choose), we Americans still do not realize the extent of the cultural backwardness that is prevalent in much of India.
My husband and I were lucky. Honor killings are rare in the Tamil Nadu region where he is from and being a man, the possibility of other physical harm such as torture was low. But I was still afraid. Without contact, I had no idea as to my ex’s physical, mental or emotional state. As well, the clock was ticking as to how long my ex could stay out of the United States before he would lose his green card. I had to act but I did not know what to do. Thankfully the Love Commandos did.
When I first heard about the Love Commandos, I thought their intent was wonderful —protectors of love — but I found their name somewhat silly. Love Commandos conjured an image of burly men with AK-47’s and heart tattoos. I thought it was a bit dramatic. That, however, was before I needed to fight.
Within 48 hours of sending documentation of our marriage to the Love Commandos, they had obtained my ex’s release by formally notifying police throughout Tamil Nadu as well as the National Human Rights Commission. I wish I could say it was all unnecessary but after 4 weeks of no contact, I finally was able to talk with my husband and very soon he will be home.
I often wonder why things happen, what is the reason, and it has occurred to me that I have an opportunity here, with this blog, to bridge cultures. To reach both a Western and an Indian audience, thereby publicize the important work the Love Commandos are doing. I feel that through my direct experience, through what happened to my husband and how the Love Commandos helped, I can make this fight to protect lovers in India a personal one.
I’m not the only one who sees how important this organization is — there have been numerous news reports on the organization as well as a recent film called, Lovebirds – Rebel Lovers in India, which has been nominated for an award at the 14th International Film Festival in Monterey, CA this year.
The Love Commandos needs help to continue their important work. Here is what you can do:
- Please sign this petition.
- Follow the Love Commandos on Facebook.
- Visit the Love Commandos website
- Contribute to the fight. — right now the only way to contribute is via bank transfer and Western Union. I am working with them to create an online portal for donations. In the meantime, you can still spread the word.
- Also visit another worthy organization that is working to prevent honor killings: Karma Nirvana