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The Stigma of Divorce in Pakistan

Updated on April 20, 2012

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.

...and disgrace

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 be whipped for the rest of her years.


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    • profile image

      s jan 

      5 years ago

      On Triple Talaq Or Three Pronouncements Of Divorce In One Sitting: Judiciary Should Implement The Qur’anic Mode Of Talaq

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I have a love marriage about 8 years ago. At that time, i found that girl to be soft spoken and even i got hyper on some issue, she just become silent and that make all my anger vansih in few minutes. After marriage, i gave her courage to face life and i love her very much. She knew that i am short tamper. We have 2 school going kids and whenever i being a father try to control the kids by words and sometimes by biting, she always make me degrade infront of kids. When i get hyper now, she responds in same hyperness and things go out of control. we are not like before. please advise wat to do in this situation

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Dear bobo,

      I wish there was one simple answer to that..relationships are complex, no one can just hit a button & switch off the mechanism. Consider that there is emotional, psychological, social, religious & financial entanglements to take care of. That makes the process prolonged & inevitably messy.

      My point is that, if at the end of the day a divorce takes place in the Pakistani society, it becomes a great stigma for the woman while the man doesn't suffer socially.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I just want to know why a man and woman want to live together after 7 years of marriage where they have made 4 dead babies?why cant they just let each other go and find happiness in new partners?

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Oh my god! I just went through a divorce with a Pathan. ALL what you said is true; I was never a burning bra feminist type but the glossy veneer and the way some (not ALL) pakistani families gloss over the crap that goes onbehind closed doors is so true! The world could come crashing down but as long as the family "face" is preserved then that is ALL that matters - how things "look."

      So what is the result? The blame is put on the womans shoulders and her daughters (if any) are shunned too and lowers their prospect of marriage. Born and raised Pakistanis primarily from Pakistan can (NOT ALL) be one of the most backward thinking people on Earth.

      I believe in making sacrifices for the kids but a human can only take so much and where there are cultural differences? The marriage can and will end.

    • etna5678 profile imageAUTHOR

      Yasmeen Anwer 

      8 years ago from Lahore, Pakistan

      Absolutely cherriesage...whatever makes a person happy! Its always a great idea to travel to new places and get acquainted with new people and cultures... :) a lot of strong women in Pakistan are making a great effort to bring about a shift in the social mindset. And also the legal situation, to empower women. However these things take time...we are keeping our fingers crossed..

      Yes, I read a lot of American books. Nothing too high-brow, I am afraid. Just bestsellers!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Whatever makes a person truly happy, right? I have no doubt that you are setting a great example to the women in your country to be individuals. I would love to fly there and talk to a few myself!

      I am married, but my husband and I are actually a bit opposite of traditional gender roles at times. Also, do you read much American literature?

    • etna5678 profile imageAUTHOR

      Yasmeen Anwer 

      8 years ago from Lahore, Pakistan

      Yes, I live in Pakistan. Always have. :)

      I think submissiveness is a personality can't "become" submissive if you weren't built that way. Women wanting to appear submissive do so in an effort to sound desirable, as the male psyche, after hundreds of years of evolution, still likes to be in complete control. A woman's meekness is a tribute to their manhood.

      Anyone trying to appear different than they actually are, is destined for unhappiness. Manipulating yourself into a relationship is counterproductive.

      I have nothing against domestic lifestyles and submissive women...or men for that matter...My objection is on stereotypical roles and expectations, that don't take into account the diversity of human temperament. And kill the concept of individuality in the process...

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      You know, I live in America and I know a lot of women who want to be submissive. It is sad to me, that any woman should ever feel like she must submit to a man. Though some women seem to enjoy this as a way of life? I live in the South and I think it is more rampant here than in other parts of this country. Southern women tend to lean more towards domestic lifestyles as opposed to independent living.

      Do you live in Pakistan currently?

    • etna5678 profile imageAUTHOR

      Yasmeen Anwer 

      8 years ago from Lahore, Pakistan

      Yes cherriesage... Its a pity how most women are treated around here in Pakistan, India and other eastern countries. The worst of it is that women put up with it and accept it as a way of life. Girls are raised to be submissive, and their only shot at control is through manipulation. Up front and honest females are criticized openly.

      For the past decade or so things have changed somewhat as the level of awareness in women has improved. Sadly, this wave of evolution hasn't been received well by the men and the society in general. So the percentages of marital discord, violence in the house and divorce are on the rise.

      Thank you for liking the article. I am glad you found it fascinating.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      This makes me very sad. Pakistani women are beautiful women who deserve to be treated like queens! It's too bad the men neglect them as human beings an instead treat them as some kind of valuable property for their own! Not only are they beautiful, but strong as well for putting up with so much.

      I also know of a marriage between two Indians that did not work because of one being homosexual. He moved to America to pursue Biology and she remarried in India.

      This is a very fascinating hub, and I am glad to have found it!


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