Talking about arranged marriages in Pakistan is not a new thing. You might have heard hundreds of narratives covering the issues that women have to face because of marrying a stranger. Yet it’s always under-reported. The stories that I want to share are the embodiment of how our societal norms compel a woman to live up to its standards because “log kya kahain gay” has a huge impact on every single decision that we make.
A comparison of two frames of reference
Shazia and Sameena, both belong to a conservative family. An arranged marriage was expected and they both accepted that. Shazia got married in 2005 (13 years ago) and Sameena got married in 2012 (6 years ago). Let’s dig into their stories.
Here’s what Shazia had to say:
“After a month of getting married, I realized that I am in a wrong place. My husband was pretty fine in the beginning but, with the passage of time, he started to become resentful. The day I became pregnant, I was so scared and confused about how will I raise my child with this man. My mother in law wasn’t supportive either.”
“My husband’s business was flourishing very fast and after a few years, our financial condition improved which proved to be unfavorable for me. He started to look down upon me. Every day he would insult me for belonging to a middle-class family and utter derogatory remarks regarding my appearance. Soon after the birth of my second child, I knew he doesn’t find me attractive anymore. He was having flings with his personal secretary. But I couldn’t say anything because he is the father of my children.”
Despite all the mistreatment, I always welcome him. I got dilation and curettage (a procedure to remove tissue from the uterus) four times because he said I am not worthy of bearing his children anymore.
Shazia’s sufferings are persisting because she is too naive to stand up for herself despite being supported by her parents. They ask her to file a divorce/khula, but she thinks her husband is not a bad person by heart, he is just strict with her. She loves her 3 beautiful children and she has accepted their father with his indignant nature.
Having said that, she has no freedom of choice, all her documents including passports and degrees are in her husband’s possession. Kahin bhaag na jaye. Empowered enough, eh?
And no, this isn’t an exceptional case. A large number of women like Shazia been kinda’ hypnotized by their husbands and are too naive to break through this sort of imprisonment. Despite her miserable married life, her mother glorifies her sacrifice to set an example for the rest of the girls of her family because “uss ne apna ghar basaa k rakha hai”.
However, on the flip side, here’s what Sameena had to say:
“I got married in 2012. Within a month of being married, I realized that my husband is not responsible enough to spend my life with. I got separated from him due to his pervasive behavior. I was forced to patch up with my husband when I came to know the gender of my unborn baby – it was a girl. Upon the insistence of my parents, I went back to my husband but nothing changed. He was as irresponsible and mean as he was before. So I took the decision to raise my girl on my own and never look back. He didn’t divorce me. It’s been 6 years, and every day I face the judgments of being too hasty to decide anything for myself.”
Sameena is an independent woman, raising her daughter happily. Yet her family compels her to patch up with her husband every other day and call her out for being too bold and blunt.
This is how we are struggling with women empowerment. Sameena took her decision but people are making sure that she reconsiders her decision of separation from her husband.
These two women, despite taking separate routes are suffering the same way due to “log kya kaheinge.”
The daunting list of seemingly unrelated similarities and differences between both the frames of references doesn’t really end here. But the biased reaction of our society is quite evident. There are a lot of women who want to be like Sameena but the women who are like Shazia are far greater in number.
We don’t want a woman to suffer in an arranged marriage if it doesn’t work out. Yet we glorify her self-destructive approach and set an example of how dedicated she is to keep the family intact.
Shouldn’t we stop teaching our daughters to suffer in the name of sacrifice? Shouldn’t we raise them to be strong and fight against the odds?
This is the reason we need women empowerment. This is the reason we need more events like Aurat March where women support each other unconditionally. We have enough of this log kya kahain gay melodrama. Period.
What do you think about this? Let us know in the comments below.
Cover image via imarriages.com