The Stigma of Divorce in Pakistan
Hazard: The stigma associated with Divorce in Pakistan is predominantly attached to the female. This is a female perspective.....
Happily Ever After...
Getting married is a giant leap of faith. You give up your independence and freedom to be half of a whole; and it feels right while you are taking the decision. Well...maybe not right , but in Pakistan, "right" is what you are expected to feel. Even if every cell in your body is screaming otherwise! Welcome to the world of Arranged and Partly-Arranged Marriages. I use the term Partly-arranged to define marriages where the "boy" and "girl" (not man and woman, mind you!) know each other and the families from both sides come into the picture to take the final decision. If the families judge the match to be "acceptable", the deal is finalized. Otherwise, love or no love, the couple has to break up.
Once the knot is tied, the "girl" leaves her home to go and live with the "boy's" family. In the new surroundings, she's expected not only to adjust immediately, but to love, respect, nurture and serve the whole extended family. And three cheers for pakistani women, because they DO! Even before knowing who they are going to marry, they are ready for the "responsibilities" of a new life, a new home, a different role and a new family. The man's family becomes the new bride's first priority while her own needs and her own family takes the backseat
And Beyond happily Ever After
Once the "girl" marries someone; Ohhh! did i say "marries"?. I meant "gets married". (My apologies to all concerned!). Once a girl GETS MARRIED, she becomes the husband's responsibility, and let's not misunderstand anything here, girls love it!. Now, what happens in the majority of marriages, in our lovely little society, is that, instead of being considered a responsibility; where the husband is responsible for loving, supporting, protecting and taking care of his wife; the wife becomes a property and a slave. Again, i will clarify that it doesn't happen in ALL marriages in Pakistan. There are plenty of good and enlightened people around. I am only speaking of the diseased marriages, so to speak!
So, in the setting of a marriage where the woman is expected to give everything and expect little, it's natural for the woman to feel dissatisfied and unfulfilled. Again, the women here find ways to adjust with, and accept the less than perfect treatment they are receiving. Why? Because the family unit is the most important thing in the society. And rightly so, it should be! It provides support, security and continuity to everyone. Plus, as everybody knows, life can't be perfect!
.......trouble in heaven
What happens if the two main players in this chessboard of marriage in the background of close-knit families, and a conservative society, don't get along?. What they do, is ignore it for as long as possible, then one or both parties try to figure out ways to bridge the differences and the gaps. sometimes that works. And other times, humans being humans, the differences can't be bridged and the problems can't be solved. Especially if the problems are of serious nature; like verbal or physical abuse, suspicion, a deep revulsion, infidelity or sexual perversions or dysfunction.
The nature of the issues notwithstanding, if the situation escalates and is brought to the attention of family members, the elders of the family try to sort through the muck to save the relationship and children, if any. Yet again, the burden of blame and responsibility and guilt is usually put on the woman's shoulders. Isn't she supposed to compromise and sacrifice for the sake of everyone? What kind of brought up has she had? What kind of a MOTHER gave birth to such a vocal, stubborn and selfish woman?!!!! Isn't she supposed to keep everything under wraps, and maintain a glossy veneer of contentment and joy?
Suppose, the husband and wife can't live together because of disease, or one of the two is a homosexual and has just know figured it out, or because there is violence in the relationship; Under those circumstances what would you do? Part ways, right? WRONG!
The whole of the society will make sure that it's the most difficult thing you've ever done in your entire life. Separation and divorce are hard on anyone, the psychological, emotional and financial setbacks are enough to tear a soul to tatters, along with the sense of failure and guilt and regret over what could have been done to keep the marriage going; even when it's clear that everything that could have been done was done. It's hard, very very hard to make little kids understand why they have a different home and lifestyle and sometimes even a different school. It rips your heart apart seeing your children going through emotional and psychological turmoil.
Factor in the role
the society assumes: of judge and jury. Of smug self-satisfied spectators, who
loved you when you were putting up with the torture and living in misery, with
their anecdotes and sympathizing "there there's", with their recipes
to make it work, or make life hell for the ones who are responsible! Now they
berate you, accuse you of unspeakable crimes, call you names, all behind your
back. Because in refusing to be a victim or a martyr, you have challenged the core that survives and thrives on the chance to pity the underdog, not hep and support.
How you manage to GET a divorce in this country is a topic worthy of another detailed discussion. All I will say here is that it's a nightmare of mammoth proportions... And what happens afterward is beyond description. You aren't respected for who you are, only judged by the failure of a relationship. . No one wants to know beyond that you are divorced. It doesn't matter why it happened. Well, it shouldn't. It's a personal matter. But the society will give a verdict anyway. Like it has a RIGHT! Congratulations! You are now an outcast!
The most troubling consequence is that you are now so stigmatized that the society determines for you a barren life. "No happiness for you, you traitor! how dare you stand up for yourself?" And that's the crux of it. "Self" for a woman should be nonexistent, the patriarchal society has decided! A woman is respectable only in the role of a wife, mother, sister, daughter and so on. Woe betide any woman who dares to say "no" to domestic violence, or one who can't live a hypocrisy, one who decides to look for honesty and truth, who refuses to put up with a criminal partner. And let's face it, any woman who steps out of a marriage for any reason whatsoever.
A very lucky woman may find her family supportive, but most women aren't lucky in Pakistan. Most parents still prefer that they don't have to go through their daughter's divorce. Most parent's feel it's an embarrassment that their daughter couldn't remain married. the majority of women in Pakistan stay home, so it's a huge financial undertaking to look after a divorced or even widowed daughter. The cherry on the this cake made of muck, is the fear, that a divorced woman will not be able to "get married" again. Why? because her character, her sanctity and her dependability are now questionable, tainted and on trial.
Pakistani woman: After years of being chained, she's now free...to be whipped for the rest of her years.
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