Recently, there have been some incidents in which girls were assaulted after they refused marriage proposals -- at least two of which got countrywide attention.
Last year, a university student, Badrul Alam, hacked a Sylhet college student, Khadiza Akhter Nargis, with a machete on October 3. Badrul later confessed in a Sylhet court on October 5 that he had attacked Khadiza as she had not responded to his repeated proposals. And more recently, enraged by a rejection, a 26-year-old man injured a girl using a sharp weapon in Cox’s Bazaar last month. The victim, a 15-year-old student of Kalarmarchhora Ideal Madrasa in Moheshkhali, had been seeing her assailant for over four years. The attacker, Jahedul Islam, was a student at Hashemia Madrasa in Cox’s Bazaar.
Though these types of incidents have garnered more media coverage than they would in the past, such incidents have been taking place in Bangladesh for much longer. Many incidents still remain unreported. I have heard about several cases in which girls agreed to marry or engage in romantic relationships only to avoid unwarranted circumstances; they do so because of threats of being harassed or assaulted.
In fewer cases, boys commit suicide when they get rejected. There also have been cases when girls committed suicide when they failed to bear the harassment caused by the boy she had rejected. These types of incidents show a clear pattern in society and relentlessly affect countless teenagers, young adults, and their respective families. It is high time for experts to shed some light on this unfortunate phenomenon.
A rejection is always painful, and romantic rejections can be even more unbearable. There are some studies that suggest that rejections and physical problems have a similar impact on our mind. A 2013 University of Michigan study suggests that while the brain does not process emotional pain and physical pain identically, the reaction and cascading events are very similar, and a natural chemical (painkiller mu-opioid) is released during both events.
As such, anguish, distress, and stress are very normal after any rejection. However, the aforementioned phenomena related to rejection is highly abnormal. It is unfortunate that a boy resorts to violence when a girl rejects his proposal. In light of such a chain of action, we can assume that it is not love in the first place.
Young children are not taught how to deal with rejection. Children need to have pragmatic upbringings from early childhood, they should be taught that in life they will not get everything they want, and many people will turn them down. And there is nothing abnormal about it
Sociologists and psychologists in our country must take it upon themselves to carry out research on why this happens. We need answers to why so many adolescents resort to violence or extreme measures in the face of rejection -- inflicting pain on others or on themselves.
We can at least understand that adolescents in Bangladesh are not taught how to accept rejections at home.
When they encounter rejection in life, they feel pushed against a brick wall, they genuinely feel that it is the end of life because they see rejections from a jaundiced perspective. One of the reasons may be linked to how boys are raised in our society.
One of my former colleagues gave me a good explanation. She suggested that as boys are used to getting almost everything they want from early childhood, they cannot accept rejection in their adult lives. They grow up thinking that they would get everything they want -- I found the explanation to be very logical.
And another important thing is: Young children, in general, are not taught how to deal with rejection. Children need to have pragmatic upbringings from early childhood, they should be taught that in life they will not get everything they want and many people will turn them down. And there is nothing abnormal about it. They should be taught that many successful people have experienced rejections and refused to let it stand in the way of their success stories.
We need to understand and teach children that rejection is inevitable and is a part of everyone’s life. We need to have conversations about it.
We also need to have open conversations regarding how to turn down a “proposal.” I was reading an article which discussed how sometimes people reject proposals in a way that is too public, or humiliating -- which often leads to low self-esteem in the person who had been turned down. And the article gave some practical and more civil suggestions on how to reject proposals.
In life, we either have to reject someone’s proposal or accept rejections (or both). Children should be raised in a way so that they know better ways to deal with any situation that relates to rejection.
Trust me, it is not the end of the world.
Musfique Wadud is a journalist.