Pakistani stigma is a peculiar thing and analysing the factors that contribute to the creation of this stigma are interesting. In the case of divorce, it’s less so religious factors and more so a product of a socially conservative society with its roots seeped in patriarchy and misogyny. In a male dominated nation, where few champion for women’s rights, it is particularly difficult for women to muster up the courage to seek a divorce. This is primarily because of the intense level of hatred and resentment that women seeking divorce face in Pakistan. The brunt of divorce always falls on the woman, this applies whether she a mother or not. This is because our society is structured upon patriarchal pillars; women are taught to believe their primary duty is to men and their most important goal must be marriage and the creation of a family. While immense scrutiny is given to the behaviour of women and their reputation in society, men are given a free pass to act as they please. Following this metric, if a marriage is abusive which is oftentimes the case when women file for divorce, particularly when you take into account the level of domestic abuse in Pakistan, women are still looked down upon for instigating the ‘end of the marriage’. This mentality and appeasement of male behaviour fails to identify the point where a marriage actually ends: the second respect and love take a backseat and when abuse takes centre stage.
As usual, the groups who suffer the most from this suppressive ideology are people from lower socio-economic backgrounds. Women seeking divorce in these groups are oftentimes killed, sometimes even while on their way to the courtroom or in front of their lawyers. Women in these communities also risk the chance of being subjected to ‘honour-killings’; the practise of ruthless murder should a woman do anything to bring dishonour to her family.
Moreover, another community that suffers greatly in the quest for emancipation from marriage are religious minorities. While divorce cases in Muslim family courts must be resolved within six months, civil divorce cases can drag on for years, making divorce almost impossible for women from religious minorities. Additionally, with lawyers’ fees being astronomical, it is further impossible for women from lower income communities to afford lawyers for divorce cases.
The stigma of divorce also makes it hard for women to remarry, and many feel it’s easier to stay in an unhappy marriage than be alone. The difficulties multiply when children are involved.
Today, the stigma seems to be dissipating, albeit at a snails pace. With increased involvement of women in the workforce and a rise in overall awareness and education about taboo issues plaguing our country, we have seen more women opting for divorce as an option to escape abusive or loveless marriages. Despite threats to their lives, women are continuing to fight for their independence and perhaps it’s time we start encouraging this behaviour instead of criticising it.
Keep up to date with more news at ProperGaanda: Pakistani dramas need to stop promoting domestic violence to their audience