Making informed choices

Published: October 3, 2010

Women in Pakistan often have difficult choices to make when it comes to divorce

Mark Steven Johnson, an American film writer and director, once said, “Everything you do in life, every choice you make, has a consequence.”

Last week a woman filed a petition in court seeking divorce from an uneducated man to whom she was married by her parents when she was a young girl. The woman said that she had studied and become a teacher but her husband did not get any education. She submitted that she could not foresee a happy marriage with him since they were very different from each other.

My first reaction after reading the news was to rejoice silently. It seems that times have finally begun to change. It must have taken courage, a lot of it actually, to take such a stand. Had her family or her ‘husband’ to whom she was betrothed without been given a choice, been sensible or reasonable the issue would have been resolved at home. But, as is the case with many families when it comes to marriages, what was done was done. She must have approached the court after deliberating for I don’t know how many nights. She must have been afraid of how her family would react, how would the man who she was given to would respond to her daring to challenge the decision. She must have been told, before or after she filed the petition, that she was bringing the family a bad name.

Maybe her father, brother or mother even told her that they regretted the day she was born and that she was dead to them. She must have been told, not just by her immediate family, but also far off relatives and neighbours who have no business interfering in her life that by leaving the husband she would be a divorcee and that no one would marry her afterwards. People must have ‘tsk-tsked’ behind her family’s back and ‘sympathised’ saying, “That is why you do not educate the girls. They become insane.”

They must have said that her sisters, if she has any, would also suffer because of her ‘inconsiderate and selfish’ decision; that no one would ask for their hand either.

But she bore all that. She did not let their punches knock her off. She stood up for herself. She realised that she was better than what she was being given, she believed in herself and she found the courage to fight back. Her fight is far from over. In all probability she will go through blackmail, emotional and otherwise. She will be reasoned with, scolded, maybe worse. I hope that she finds the nerve not to give up, that she realises everyday that the moment she decided to go against the family decision, she was right and that there is nothing wrong with believing that you deserve more from life.

Making such a choice is driven by a willingness to make a change in your life, which helps one reclaim personal power. When you make a choice, you take responsibility for yourself. I read somewhere, “It is the moment when a person re-defines themselves on their own terms.” I think in our society many of us, not just women, lack that responsibility, not just in deciding who to marry. We need to start being self-responsible. That is the only way we will accept the consequences of our actions and our choices.

Aatekah Mir-Khan

Aatekah Mir-Khan

A senior sub-editor for the Lahore city pages of The Express Tribune

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.