Stories about taboo

With no medical reasons or links to religion, why are women still being circumcised?

Africa and certain parts of the Arab world are not the only places where the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) prevails, as Indonesia is currently on the hot seat for allowing female circumcision on girls as young as one-year-old.  On March 27th, a disheartening video of an Indonesian toddler surfaced which shook people around the world. In the said video, Salsa Djafar is shown decorated in a crown with ribbons and shiny clothes, ready to be circumcised. The video is not to be watched by the faint-hearted as it truly captures the pain of the little baby girl while ...

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The child marriage legislation is a step in the right direction, but will it be implemented?

Marriages are big business in Pakistan. It is a time of hope, happiness, faith and love. Such a memorable event can easily turn sour when the parties getting married are underage. To curb this heinous act, legislation has been passed by the National Assembly, aimed to reduce child marriages by ramping up the severity of the punishment.  Instead of being imprisoned for up to three years, individuals involved in arranging child marriages face a 10-year imprisonment with a one million rupees fine. This new change in the law seems to be a serious effort on part of the government to tackle this insidious practice. Although on ...

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Finally, an ad that does not care about what a man-child might think about menstruation

Menstruation? I know what most of you are going to say: “Oh no! Run to the door! Run to the hills!” In this ‘beautiful’ society of ours, menstruation is synonymous with shame. Women and men, alike, recoil at this ‘topic’ faster than you can say “pad”. See, anything below the waistline is taboo for us Pakistanis, but have we ever thought about the side effects of having such a mind-set? Most women feel on edge when it’s that time of the month, they feel isolated, impure, and fragile. This advert might be the only one of its kind. In our local and ...

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Why should a woman be shamed for being on her period?

I’ve been watching a recent debate unfold: students at a local university in Pakistan stuck sanitary napkins on the university walls with poignant quotes. As a woman, I admired the bravado of these students. Mainly because ever since we were kids, we’re told that since we are the ‘weaker/fairer’ sex, we shouldn’t: “Wear too much make-up”, “Wear a dupatta this way” “Wear such high heels”, “Don’t talk so loudly’, Oh yeah, and, “When on your period, channel your inner Jane Bond.” Maybe the men don’t get the whole psyche that’s inbuilt women from the age their periods start. The society has some sort of a state of ...

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I was never his wife, I was only his slave

“I maybe from a  third world country but I have a heart like you do, emotions like you have, and dreams to pursue. On my first Eid as a married girl, I wanted to dress up and celebrate my new beginning instead of being in a hospital bed recovering from the effects of abuse.” I got married in March 2014 in Chicago with dreams of starting a new life and a future built out on love and trust in my new home. My parents were so assured that they were giving me into the hands of an educated guy; someone who ...

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Why people should NOT get married in Pakistan

Before you wrinkle your eyebrows in a ‘holier-than-thou’ frown and judge my very existence, let me assure you that this blog is not a preaching of what you should or should not do. This blog is based on mere observations of human relationships and a concept that defines our lives in so many ways – shaadi (marriage). I was familiar with this word at a very young age. But it was at the age of six when my brother (eight-years-old then) told me something that freaked me out. In sheer exasperation, that only an older brother can have, he said, “I can’t ...

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Ariba on the outside, Ahmed on the inside

Greeted by the waiter at a café, nervous yet anxious, I inquire about the girl I was scheduled to meet for an interview. “Ma’am, he is waiting for you upstairs.” The first thought that runs through my mind: HE? There must have been some mistake, I thought. To my surprise, I meet a person I was more inclined on calling ‘handsome’ than ‘pretty’. Surrounded by the strong smell of men’s cologne, she was dressed in a crisp white dress shirt for men, a brown belt and beige trousers. I could see the sweat on her hands that wore a Swatch and carried a Blackberry. Ariba Rizvi, ...

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Pakistan Women’s Day: It’s about time we start respecting Shireen Mazari and Asma Jahangir

February 12, 2015, commemorates National Women’s Day in Pakistan, for our mothers, doctors, engineers, leaders, homemakers and women belonging to every strata, class and religion in society. But while we celebrate our women, it is very unfortunate that many of them have to face immense challenges in their daily routine; from public name-calling to humiliation and character assassination, our women go through all. Whenever they come out and participate effectively in political or public spheres, many elements express their venom against such women and regard them to be of bad character and lacking morals. An example of this is the ...

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Recycle yourself, don’t let your kindness die with you

A man sitting in a park reading suddenly bursts into laughter. This catches the attention of a boy sitting near him with dark shades on and a stick in his hand who, out of curiosity, asks the reason for the man’s laughter. The man, pleased to be able to be nice to the boy, starts reading the passage to him and they both share a laugh. After a while when the man gets back to his reading and there’s silence once again, the boy breaks the ice by asking if the man would be kind enough to let him have “that” after ...

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Breast cancer: Pakistan’s most common cancer

It was the summer of 1999, when a bunch of us, final year medical students, were attending to patients in the crowded outpatient department at the Mayo Hospital in Lahore. Our professor had called us to come see a patient in one of the consultation rooms. The patient was a young woman, no more than 35 years of age. She had come to the hospital with a large breast mass. She said that she had first felt the mass more than a year ago. After ignoring it for months, she had finally mustered the courage to talk to her husband about it. ...

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