As a modern western woman it is easy for me to get mad at societies that do not allow women freedoms that I have enjoyed my entire life. When I read this article on the Sudanese women who went to trial for wearing pants, I was outraged. The normal punishment for “indecent” dress is whipping. The fact that she may have a fine or prison time is actually a better outcome than many have had.
Issues such as this, or woman being imprisoned for being raped, showing her face or arms, Female Genital Mutilation (more to come in the future on this subject) and attending school are real issues of human rights. Most Americans would agree with me on this (I think).
Other issues such as conservative dressing or fasting for religious beliefs are considered showing respect for another culture. In Ethiopia men and women do not show their knees. That means no shorts and no short skirts. I respected this while in country and kept my knees and my families’ knees covered. I have sent pictures of the girls in shorts to Ethiopia and to their Ethiopian dad, but I do try and make sure they are long shorts and I skip out on any bathing-suit pictures.
When adopting from another culture or country it can be tricky to teach your child his/her culture with respect if it is hard to understand the customs and traditions. If you have adopted an older child it is important to remember that your child will view their customs as the norm and our American ways strange and abnormal.
Learn all you can of your child’s culture and try and find out about local customs when you are in country.
You may fundamentally disagree with a tradition, but it is important that you realize it is a part of your child’s history. For example, with FGM, you may not agree with it and find it a horrible way of treating woman. If when you talk about it with your child you use harsh words (barbaric, heathens, savages) you may be sending him/her messages that she should be ashamed of her country. Trying to figure out how to explain a custom without condoning it. This takes time and research of course and unless it is currently effecting your child’s health and well being, it will most likely not be a discussion you’ll be having in your first months and years home.
Our children’s customs and cultures are more than just rules to them. It is their way of life. Learning about their culture will make the transition a bit easier for you and your family.