Family day: ‘Staring male’ species not allowed — unless with a female …

Published: October 23, 2013

Why is this not a problem outside Aashiyana where hundreds of women are having their hands henna’d regardless of being ogled at by thousands of cheap guys? PHOTO: AYESHA MIR/EXPRESS

This Eid, I ordered my kurta from an outlet in Park Towers and I was meant to pick it up after alterations on chand raat. When I got there, I was stopped at the gate and told quite rudely by the security guard that,

“Today is a family day”

He put his arm in front of me to block me from entering.

“What do you mean? I can’t go inside?,” I questioned, to which he responded

“No. You have to come with your family. Single men are not allowed inside today.”

I even showed him the receipt for my kurta in an attempt to substantiate my reason for wanting to go inside. I still wasn’t allowed to enter. Panicking at the realisation that I may have nothing to wear on Eid, I started asking strangers to help me. Eventually after an hour of cajoling outsiders, a Good Samaritan helped me get in with their family. This obviously defeated the whole purpose of the rule and got me thinking of the logic behind such a restriction.

In Pakistan, it seems as though family day doesn’t really mean coming with your ‘family’ or anyone related to you per se. It means coming with female company, be it a friend, a girlfriend and so on. Obviously, nobody cares about whether you are entering with a blood relative or not. What they care about is that as a single guy, you are accompanied by a female.

This incident reminded me of all the places I’ve been refused service due to it being for “families only”, starting all the way back in my teens. When I was much younger, I wanted to go to a store called ‘Teens and Kids’ but I was stopped at the door with a similar statement that “guys aren’t allowed inside; it’s for families only.”

My friend playfully responded to this saying,

“So what? We’re two brothers… We aren’t considered a family?”

The man seemed taken aback by that response. However, needless to say, we weren’t allowed in. I didn’t quite understand it. How harmful could two teens inside a shop called “Teens and Kids” be? Moreover, I was puzzled as to the purpose of this shop that was, for teens and kids, but refused to allow teenagers in because they were male? I guess the board should have read “Girl teens and girl kids” – that would have made more sense.

This absurd rule, unfortunately, doesn’t extend to just shopping malls and outlet stores in particular. In fact, once I was at Boat Basin and my friends and I were made to sit outside in the agonising summer heat despite the fact that there was an air-conditioned ‘Family Room’ which was completely empty at the moment. We argued but we weren’t allowed in.

Later, a group of young girls sauntered in and took their ‘rightful’ place in the pleasant room. The waiter didn’t really answer when I asked,

“So how many families are those?”

Even Port Grand – a decidedly chic and modern place – has the ‘family day’ rule. I’m not even going to discuss the hypermarkets or cinemas in Pakistan where boys are not allowed, because, hey, they are boys!

So what is it really about single guys that make all these families feel so threatened?

I asked someone who responded by saying,

“It’s nice that they don’t allow single men inside malls. There are many boys who come here just to stare at women inside and it’s good that we can shop in peace when they aren’t allowed inside.”

Taken aback by this observation, I couldn’t help but wonder what the single guy should do in situations like these.  If a man doesn’t have a sister or girlfriend and doesn’t want to bother his mother, cousins or female friends, then what option does he have left?

What if someone’s family isn’t even in the city? How is a single man, who has moved to the city for work, supposed to cope with all this rigidity? And what about the man who just wants to shop alone?

Having travelled a lot, I have never experienced anything even remotely similar to this senseless discrimination anywhere else. It makes me wonder what sort of damaging message we are conveying here: “single men can’t behave themselves unless they are with a female.” Ridiculous indeed!

In a country where having a girl friend or female friends is looked down upon and considered taboo by many, it is confusing to see the opposite being promoted here. Why the hypocrisy? If malls and cinemas want to protect women – which they should – then a better security system where CCTV cameras monitor with precision and guards protect women from getting harassed are a better policy then the absurd ‘family day’.

On a closing note, I wonder why the same ‘staring male’ species isn’t problem outside Aashiana, on chaand raat, when hundreds of women queue to apply henna to their hands?

Zaven Ahmed

Zaven Ahmed

Works as a financial auditor in the UAE. He loves travelling and is passionate about music.

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

  • Nabil

    Very Rightly addressed…

    You should visit Saudi Arabia …. it is much stricter here & it doesn’t make any sense as u have already mentioned …… I may digest a Women’s day but family day … -_-Recommend

  • mecha

    Interesting observation. I have heard a lot of woman complain that Pakistani guys stare at them but the apparently if they go to Europe the gora’s dont.

    I have been with Gora’s and believe me they stare. They just dont stare at asian girls/woman. Perhaps not their taste :)

    I do not condone staring. I actually hate it as I have got sisters and a wife. But if women do want to be respected then dress respectfully.Recommend

  • AF

    “Later, a group of young girls sauntered in and took their ‘rightful’ place in the pleasant room. The waiter didn’t really answer when I asked,

    “So how many families are those?””

    good one. but for them a single girl is also a family. whoever, made this rule is a moron. Last friday i was not allowed to enter with my child when asked he said you don’t have any lady with you. Recommend

  • Faryal

    Having spent time both in Lahore and in the US, I can say that it is much easier for me to tolerate the frequent stares of Pakistani men in markets and malls than the less frequent come-ons and touching I have experienced abroad. That said, I consider myself a woman of the world so I don’t care as much as my cousins, sisters, and some friends. I do understand the thinking behind the rule, and private establishments can do whatever pleases their customers. However, I think the more pertinent route to making everyone comfortable is to change the attitude men have about objectifying and sexualizing girls and women.Recommend

  • Keen Observer

    This is a Pakistani, maybe even the dominant one among Pakistanis, mindset at play here. Normally when there is a problem, you try to correct it by looking for the cause. Here, it’s the other way around. Symptoms are identified and treated as such, but the cause is not dealt with. So when male staring needs to be stopped, the source of the problem is not taken into account. In stead of teaching boys and men good morals, the solution is sought in more burqa clad women. When dealing with the problem of honour killings, in stead of proceeding against the hearsay and gossip culture, we try to restrict the movement of girls and women even more.
    I agree with the author that many Pakistanis seem obsessed with segregation of the sexes, which is sometimes very irrational. I know this Pakistani guy in the UK. Easy going and a working man with a wife, and from the looks a ‘modern’ man. But that’s just the surface. When my parents visit their home, my father and mother are segregated, which means women are condemned to the small kitchen in the back, and the men can get sit in the living room. When this couple visits the home of my parents, they insists on ‘purdah’. Non-Pakistani visitors of course are not subjected to this arrangement in their house, which makes it quite inconsistent. They maintain purdah, the opposite sexes are not supposed to interact verbally or look to one and the other, but this man has no problem picking up single women or couples when driving his cab, or the wife interacting with men when doing shopping, while looking around. This typical mindset, which the author describes, indeed defies any logic and consistency. And it feels hypocritical, my parents and many other Pakistani men and women are decent people, the implications of this hypocritical stance is for everyone to see.Recommend

  • ShoukaT

    I have been denied entry into many cafes in Lahore e.g. CTC on weekends and such busy Eid or other holidays just because I don’t have a Girlfriend or I don’t have a female accompanying me, since they only allow families and even consider a group of 5 guys and 1 Girl a family.
    A very nice article covering the pain of poor single guys who are denied to have a good time with their friends. Family day is plain stupid.Recommend

  • blue bird

    bias against blacks is called racism

    bias against women is called misogyny

    bias against men is called humor.Recommend

  • Balala

    I’ve been denied entry into many restaurants and stores ever since I was around 12, I feel like Rosa Parks sometimes, there is a war on men in Pakistan, somebody needs to speak up for us.Recommend

  • Fizzah


  • mecha

    I think you are missing the point. The argument woman use in Pakistan is that no stares at them when they go to the gora Land. Or that they can wear whatever they want because no one cares.

    What I am saying is that you should spend sometime with the gora men and then compare them to Pakistani Men. They are just the same if not worse.

    Or maybe you can start dressing more provocatively and start beating up men when they stare at you :)Recommend

  • Mustafa Hanif


  • raj

    Dress has nothing to do with staring. Its just your mental level that makes you do this sickness. And yes foreigners don’t stare because they are less frustrated than pakistani men mainly because of the availability of continual consensual relationships that pakistani men are deprived off. Its just the frustration that makes men stare so much that other women has to bow down which is a shame. This same point is the reason why rape cases have increased drastically in India and Pakistan. I do acknowledge the fact the the rate of rapes is higher in the US states but the problem is here women do not get justice which can lower the incidences. these points aside, yes men do stare alot in pakistan and there fore business community has started to make few expensive cinemas and malls where cheap-ster cannot think of entering..Recommend

  • raj

    Also if you expect women to dress properly, then why can’t women expect men to wear a veil so they can’t look at themRecommend

  • Noman Ansari

    I am sorry, but I would have kicked up a storm. What nonsense.

    Your other option was to call the store from the receipt and ask them to just bring the suit to you outside.Recommend

  • mecha

    ET wont let me reply to this :(Recommend

  • Power^People

    i find it hilarious that towards the end of the paragraph, you talk about how unfair it is to not be allowed to do things just because you’re a single male.
    Need i remind you of the things a single woman cannot or is shamed for doing?
    I’m not saying you’re wrong: it IS a stupid rule. But you must also realize what sort of cultural background your comments are placed against.Recommend

  • AmZ

    I do have sisters and a wife but I also have shops in the malls, so I believe I am in a position to be fairly objective. The problem lies on both sides. Women do often get harassed or stared at in public places in Pakistan specially in the malls where the “poondi” is to be found. Some females shoppers do complain but most just simply walk out of a situation where they feel uncomfortable. In the other direction, often single men sigh that they have not been able to make it to pick up their delivery simply because they were not allowed… errr.. family day. I think best practice for any organization be it a mall or a restaurant is to practice filtration. The idea is to filter out a single man or a group of men who have every intention of just roaming around for eye candy. Any mature person can judge by the dressing, behaviour, attitude etc. Yes many may argue that is pure discrimination, but hello! if you are from a respectable family it should show. It is not possible to keep everyone happy but at least it seems to bring the gap closer on both sides.Recommend

  • Balala

    Men will be men, we check out girls all over the world.

    If a guy doesn’t check you it could mean 2 things:
    1.He’s not interested in women.
    2.You’re not very attractive.Recommend

  • Zahir

    That is why boys & girls here are not getting married here in Pakistan, so many restrictions :DRecommend

  • gp65

    Have you considered that in a place where single men are not allowed to enter malls and some restaurants on specific days deemed family days, what type of restrictions may exist for single women in terms of movement, clothing and so on?

    By no means do I support the restrictions on these men but would like to sensitised you to the other side as well.Recommend

  • blue bean

    A very nice topic which is discussed in an accurate manner, but it is because of some other type of ethic less, disrespected males that other men suffers. Our elders says that, all the fingers of our hand isn’t of same level, same can deployed over male generation. All men doesn’t stare at a women unless the women decorate her self like an alien.Recommend

  • SingleManDiscrimination

    An excellent article, keep up the good work:)Recommend

  • Raza

    Has been going on for a while even in liberal spots in Karachi. Just absurd. I once went to DHA Cineplex with my brother to get tickets and we couldnt go in despite showing our IDs (listing the same father’s name). A mixed group of teens was however able to get in without any problem, coz the group had females (which is the only criteria). Eventually we had to go get our mother from the car to be able to go in to purchase the tickets. Amongst many brainless things in Pakistani society.Recommend

  • An

    LOL it is opposite..boys and girls are marrying so they can enter any mall on family day . :DRecommend

  • Babar

    I have been denied access to cafes in Lahore many times. Totally pissed me off. I was also not allowed to enter a cinema even though I had a ticket in my hand. I am certainly going to try to defy them next time. If courts were any good here, I would have certainly considered a law suit.Recommend

  • Ahmed

    I have been denied access to cafes in Lahore many times. Totally pissed me off. I was also not allowed to enter a cinema even though I had a ticket in my hand. And these were not family days, apparently some of these establishments have these rules for all times. I am certainly going to try to defy them next time. If courts were any good here, I would have certainly considered a law suit.Recommend

  • Ahmed

    3. Or the guy is just sick in his head! (People do look at each other but staring as if the person being stared at is naked is something else though!)
    4. You need to grow up a little!Recommend

  • Jimmy Ray

    if you think Pakistanis use common sense as their guiding light for alot of the things that they do or say, you’re sadly mistaken.Recommend

  • TTV

    I think the issue at hand isn’t the fact that they’re staring, it’s the fact that they’re doing it in a manner that makes women uncomfortable. There’s a huge difference between “checking out” a woman and being a complete creep. This problem probably wouldn’t exist if intermingling of the sexes wasn’t considered such a taboo in Pakistan.Recommend

  • Daddy

    So you mean you have never been stopped as a stag when entering nightclubs in Dubai?Recommend

  • blue bird

    you talking to me?Recommend

  • gp65

    you know from your own experience at McDonalds that sometimes there is no way around silly rules – no matter how much one complainsRecommend

  • AB

    Thank you for bringing it up. Its a problem which no one dares to point out. If somewhere only families or males were allowed it would have been a great debate and discrimination against females from all the feminists but when it comes to males its fine.

    Someone said due to few bad apples all males have to suffer, according to this logic due to some bad acts of females all females should suffer. Which is wrong in both cases.Recommend

  • Deen Sheikh

    Blogs on this topic have been written before in vain, this policy exists solely to please a small gentry of paranoid upper middle class Karachi women. It is paranoia and casting a social insult to the other that have women a plenty always available in your life otherwise you do not deserve to be inside such places. Personally I just find it extremely inconvenient to make sure I have a female accompanying me every time I have to visit such an establishment, Dolmen Mall for example. I had the same experience as the writer, I had to pick up my Trousers for alteration, I had the receipt, they would not let me in.Recommend

  • af

    family day.

    1. they don’t have a proper definition of family.
    2. single male or group of male is not a family be they be brothers, fathers and son, etc
    3. single female or group of females is a family be they be friendsRecommend

  • af

    This sunday i will enter a family day mall with my wife and will stare all the girls over there. do whatever you can do.Recommend

  • mhammad ovais khan

    ironically it is a fact that men usually do not stare at women who covers up themselves Recommend

  • Noman Ansari

    …fair enough..Recommend

  • mhammad ovais khan

    kudos to author of this blog you just stole my words this is such a direct discrimination here in Pakistan only female species is considered as family two brothers can never be a family and what about those girls who roam around the malls for sake of staring public and window shopping this must be deal with in reasonable way my one suggestion is to allocate some timings for those who wants enter into malls for some geniune reasonRecommend

  • mhammad ovais khan

    like if they were waiting for him to call them and have nothing to do in their shops and this piece of writing not only meant to moaning about not having permission but to highlight the prevalent issue which is not being properly dealt withRecommend

  • Aasim

    Nice Article.. I believe one of the better ways to filter out the potential trouble makers is having a some kind of a fee for those “no shopping” in the mall.. Few weeks back Centaurus in Islamabad did the same which had reduced the “unwanted” crowd to a significant extent, though somehow it was interpreted as unconstitutional by the Supreme court, but similar measures could help in achieving the objective instead of having “family days” which aim at depriving men from shopping alone..Recommend

  • hc

    thats a lil creepy and disrespectful to ur wife…Recommend

  • Left out

    Do we have something like ‘Men Rights’ in here?Recommend

  • manhater

    I m totally for family day in malls ,but in pakistan only,in fact i hope they make sunday bazar male free too..dha authorities pls read thisRecommend

  • skyrust

    all men aren’t bad…really ladies trust me…Recommend

  • Bangalorean

    Somehow I doubt what you said that “goras” stare. (As an aside, I dislike the use of this racist word “gora”). And I take great umbrage in you saying that women must dress respectfully to get respect.

    Foreigners may check out women, but then they also know how to make their moves and chat them up in a humorous way. The discomfort that women face in the subcontinent is with guys who stare at them as if they are doing something wrong and are the woman may feel that he is actually threatening her.

    My theory is that most of this comes due to the segregation of sexes in the subcontinent in school and/or college. As someone who studied in a boys-only school, I still feel uncomfortable around women even though I am much older now.Recommend

  • ANON

    How does ‘you can’t enter because you don’t look like a guy from a respectable family’ sound?
    All logic goes into the gutter right there.Recommend

  • Insaan

    I am sure, it is MEN who made the decision there should be a FAMILY DAY. It is weird MEN are afraid that other men connecting or brushing with their women even when the women are with their families. Men know what MEN think or do when they see/meet a woman.Recommend

  • Insaan

    The idea is to filter out a single man or a group of men who have every intention of just roaming around for eye candy…..

  • Nobody

    The argument that a woman should cover up to avoid being stared at is tired and old. Why should I cover up because some perv can’t stop himself from leering at me? This blame the victim mentality is endemic in Pakistan and it’s high time it stops.
    It’s human nature for men to look at women and women to look at men. We’re supposed to be attracted to each other. But there’s a big difference between looking and leering. Living in the US, people do look at me, just as I look at men I find attractive, but rarely ever has anyone LEERED at me or looked in a way to make me uncomfortable.
    More to the point, the family day rule has never made sense to me either. I visit Pakistan often and my male cousins and I are very close and often go out together, be it a mall or a cinema or wherever; it’s usually all guys and me, the lone female. Yet somehow this passes as a “family.” Doesn’t make sense. While I won’t agree that Pakistan is a harder place for men to live then it is for women, I do find the rule unfair and ineffective. Many a times a pervy uncle will cast stares in my direction and he’s there with his whole family. Sick. Point is the rule doesn’t weed out the pervs; teaching young boys from the get go not to stare might work better.
    I don’t know what kind of goras you hung out with but I’ve never been around any who leer at women. Look, but don’t leer.
    your men will be men motto is another one that’s tired and old. As I said before, men and women naturally check each other out; that doesn’t mean it’s acceptable in any civilized society to leer at someone. It’s high time Pakistani men grow up and start behaving like it’s 2013.

  • Nobody


  • Hasan I

    So your saying guys from “respectable” families can’t ogle at poodi? This is bull. What you’re about is a socially acceptable way of checking out the poondi. I agree with you in that this has everything to do with class differences and nothing to do with sex, but you can’t really bar people from entering based on that. Would be worse than what they’re doing now.Recommend

  • Insaan

    Why do you think Saudi’s don’t allow women to drive or eat out alone? What is the function of religious police? In countries where all women wear burqa, women get groped and raped also.Recommend

  • Syed Owais Mukhtar

    Nice article, but I think this is the requirement of the environment we are living in. Secondly, I wrote about the same subject here
    In office environment we take actions when a female is harassed, but not when a male is harassedRecommend

  • mhammad ovais khan

    but what is percentage of sexual crimes there on average and what i mean to say for women to get respect you should clad respectful aka not provocative dress and from side of men they should give respect to those who actually want to getRecommend

  • Insaan

    You can’t compare percentages because a Muslim woman can get killed or imprisoned for getting raped. I am surprised by your statement “from side of men they should give respect to those who actually want to get”.Recommend

  • shahid creation

    interesting…well said blue bean..

  • Zaven Ahmed

    So you really think that the shopkeepers should all be females? Is that even possible? or are you ok with the shopkeepers being male?Recommend

  • Zaven Ahmed

    Are you going to compare nightclubs with McDonald’s or a shopping mall? I’d be perfectly fine in a shopping mall even if it’s all males. Many guys won’t like the same in a nightclub. The dynamics of the places are different. Needless to say, I’m against not letting guys by themselves in there too. It’s been discussed and is under consideration with policy makers here.Recommend

  • Zaven Ahmed

    That’s what I’m thinking. Why paint all men with the same brush? I’m sure there are many who go in with their families and still make many females uncomfortable.Recommend

  • Zaven Ahmed

    That would cause more issues. Who gets to judge who “looks” like he’s from a respectable family? What does my family even have to do with it? What if my family is not respectable but I’m perfectly capable of minding my own business and buy the things I need and get out of there?

    That’s the whole point. I would like to be considered as an individual and not be deprived of things due to that fact.Recommend

  • Zaven Ahmed

    I was just highlighting one of the social issues which I have personally faced. It’s understood that there are far more important issues that need to be dealt with and the issue raised here is not the worst of the social problems we have.Recommend

  • Zaven Ahmed

    Not too sure how that would’ve worked out given how the shopkeeprs don’t pick up their phones in rush hours.Recommend

  • Zaven Ahmed

    I understand that there might be places which have these rules. I’ve just never experienced it first hand.Recommend

  • Zaven Ahmed

    Thank you everyone for all the feedback. I appreciate all of it. Some viable workarounds have been suggested which could help ease this situation. I just hope some authorities take note of this.Recommend

  • Noman Ansari

    Actually I am really sure that they would have sent someone to the mall door with his suit. It wouldn’t have been an issue for them. Park Towers is really tiny (I wouldn’t call it a mall), and they could have sent someone.

    Not that I am saying what happened was fair. It would have been very frustrating for me.Recommend

  • Insaan

    Many a times a pervy uncle will cast stares in my direction and he’s there with his whole family. Sick…….You do look at attractive men, right. How do you know the man who you look at is married or single? If you look at a married man who is attractive, should that be considered sick?Recommend


    My suggestion is that the security at these posh places should only allow persons who have a valid CREDIT CARD. This way you will restrict all the unwanted scrupulous folks.Recommend

  • jin

    and still the feminine brigade and female apologists call Pakistan a “male chauvinist” society. About time MEN of this country start speaking up for their rights.Recommend

  • Insaan

    Can you explain the huge difference between “checking out” a woman and being a complete creep?Recommend

  • Insaan

    I consider myself a woman of the world so I don’t care as much ….I can say that it is much easier for me to tolerate the frequent stares of Pakistani men in markets and malls than the less frequent come-ons and touching I have experienced abroad.
    Do you mean you experienced more come-ons and touching in USA? Did you try to be very friendly with Americans? Are you talking about Desi Americans?Recommend

  • TTV

    Gazing at someone for a couple of seconds and then resuming your usual activity = not creepy

    Following someone around and staring at them for extended periods of time = creepy

    The latter seems to have become a hobby for some men.Recommend


    holycrap are you serious????????????ure not allowed in a mall unless with a lady so its a war on men?????? do you want to draw a comparison between places men are allowed and women arent? because the stats will laugh in your disgruntled little face.Recommend

  • az

    I don’t agree with this rule, if it’s families only then no one should be allowed except for families. Allowing girls but not boys is unfair.

    Maybe if harrasment stopped there would be no need for this rule. There should be measure to make a place safe for EVERYONE regardless of gender and where harrassers are given punishment
    However family day is no way to assure this, the solution to creating a generally friendly atmosphere is better security measures like you said. CCTV is the best way honestly, but people in general need to be sympathetic towards harrasment victims.
    Sometimes people help you other times they judge you instead and think your dressing or way of talking provoked the harassment, some commentators below are saying just that.

    the author has rightly pointed a very hypocritic side of our society,Recommend

  • Mustafa Hanif

    Which are those places?Recommend

  • Red

    Well, they don’t. Someone just explained the difference between merely looking at someone and staring at them. American men will look at you but hardly anyone there will stare. I lived there for a couple of years and I got harassed a grand total of 3 times and one of those times was in a Pakistani neighborhood. In Pakistan, I will get harassed 10 times if I merely walk 15 minutes on the road. Notice the difference? And no, clothes or age or appearance make not a whit of difference. For instance, I know old Pakistani women who have been harassed in Lahore. In America, you can wear short shorts and not have anyone look twice. Unlike here, sexual harassment is taken very seriously by the police in America as well. You will get tossed out of any American establishment if you behave like Pakistani men do at almost any gathering where there are women (e.g. concerts, political gatherings). Funny thing about concerts and subway cars and the like where it is jam-packed…wonder of wonders no man will ever “accidently” brush against you. Ever. And I took crowded subways every single day. I think you need to check your privilege and start observing your surroundings a bit more closely. Oh, and start listening to women, who are actually experiencing sexual harassment, instead of dismissing their voices just because YOU don’t want to believe their experiences.Recommend

  • Insaan

    Yeh right, every one who does not have a valid credit card is unwanted scrupulous.Recommend

  • Nobody

    I LOOK at attractive men. I don’t LEER at attractive men, or any men for that matter. The focus is on the leering/staring, not the looking or whether someone is single or not. Point is the staring is unnerving and the “sick” element is in the WAY said man looks at me, not the fact that he simply looked in my direction at all. Hope that clears it up for you a bit!Recommend

  • Nobody

    Because Pakistan IS a male chauvinist society for the most part. If you’d like to do a compare and contrast between how many women’s rights are trampled upon compared to men, that can easily be done. No one is arguing life is hunky dorry for men in Pakistan either, but I don’t think you can say you have MORE to complain about then the average woman. That being said, I still stand by my point: rules like this are unfair and ineffective.Recommend