So what if Reham Khan is divorced?

Published: January 10, 2015
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The stigma attached to a divorced woman resiliently continues, despite increased urbanisation and standards of literacy. PHOTO: REHAMKHANOFFICIAL.COM

The stigma attached to a divorced woman resiliently continues, despite increased urbanisation and standards of literacy. PHOTO: EPA/AFP The stigma attached to a divorced woman resiliently continues, despite increased urbanisation and standards of literacy. PHOTO: REHAMKHANOFFICIAL.COM

There are occasions when the misogyny and gender-bias that exists in Pakistan becomes more obvious than ever. Imran Khan’s wedding to Reham Khan has been one such occasion that has brought to light the underlying and inherent concept that an “honourable woman” needs to have certain pre-requisites. On the top of that list is this: she must not be a divorcee.

For most men of Pakistan, even the so-called educated ones, the only women of honour are their own mothers, sisters, wives and daughters. Any other woman’s repute, especially that of a divorced woman, is something they can plunder, especially if she is a celebrity. People stoop to the level of digging into a woman’s past and relish anything they can find against her. In our culture, a “divorced” woman is mostly not considered a ‘good’ woman. A 60 plus male relative of mine over a family dinner said to me,

“How could Imran have chosen her? He could have gotten any unmarried woman he wanted. She is divorced… she must be at fault somewhere, right?”

“But he is divorced too,” I replied.

The gentlemen obviously felt that was not an issue. Add to it the fact that in this day and age, digital technology keeps track of our deeds more than angels do, and Reham’s modern attire, a snappy wit and nature of work were all over social media. They assume that if an empowered woman is divorced, well, she must have been the reason. As a society, we share compromised photographs and recordings of women, laugh, share, enjoy, and silence our guilt by uttering “taubah astaghfar” (God forbid) intermittently. Through it all, our pre-conditioned bias is at work.

The stigma attached to a divorced woman resiliently continues, despite increased urbanisation and standards of literacy. Leave alone men, talk to women across the board, and seemingly modern women will also say “taubah karo, God forbid” that their unmarried sons or brothers were to marry a divorced woman. Even the religious men and women who want to emulate the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in every little act seem to forget that other than Hazrat Ayesha (ra), all of the Prophet’s wives were either widows or divorcees. We pick and choose cleverly between the Sunnah (way) of the Prophet (pbuh), and our religion takes a back seat when juxtaposed against cultural pre-conditioning.

There are a few unfair assumptions about a divorced woman and perhaps the most pre-dominant one is that she is someone who does not have her priorities right; that she has a messed up value system.

“Divorces are on the rise because women do not have tolerance anymore” is a common sentiment.

I recall meeting an advocate who confirmed that cases of Khula (Islamic divorce) are steeply on the rise in Pakistan.

“These are mostly human rights-type women,” he said, explaining the term that these are mostly women who are not willing to take it anymore.

Pehle ki aurtain bewafaai bardaasht kar leti then. Thappar khaa leti thi. Abb to Khula lene khari ho jaati hain.”

(Earlier, women tolerated infidelity. Or took a beating. Now they stand in line for divorce.)

If a lack of tolerance means that more women today will not stand injustice and insult, then such a woman, who took such a stand, should in fact be respected more. Somewhere deep inside, women who are most critical of other women who have opted for divorce are possibly envious that they did not have the same guts or chances.

Another painful assumption about divorced women is that they are not chaste women. A seemingly sensible woman said the other day,

Uss type ki aurton ki talaaqain hoti hain

(Those types of women get divorced)

And all I wanted to do was bang my head against the wall. Divorced women experience how even the closest of friends start avoiding meeting them in presence of their husbands, as if they are vultures on the lookout for men.

This is not to imply that all divorced women are tolerant, compromising, giving and saint-like. There will always be all kinds. But sweeping assumptions are extremely unfair, specially bearing in mind that a divorced man is not judged the same way. The divorce of any man or woman is not what defines them. Their actions and intentions do.

Everyone needs a companion and a second chance at happiness, more so when the first experience has been bitter. We should let people be. Everyone around us is fighting their own battles. Let’s not make it tougher for others, or karma may start acting up before you know it.

Apart from the many other healthy precedents that Imran and Reham’s marriage has set, one is that in a culture steeped in gender-bias, a divorced woman is today the wife of the country’s most popular leader and may end up becoming the country’s first lady in the future. Here’s hoping this will open up the minds of our people a bit more.

Farahnaz Zahidi

Farahnaz Zahidi

Farahnaz is a writer and editor, and has worked as the Features Editor with The Express Tribune. Her focus is human-centric feature stories. She now writes as a freelancer, and works in the field of marketing and corporate communications. She loves literature and traveling. She tweets on @FarahnazZahidi. Her work can be seen at chaaidaani.wordpress.com/

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

  • MA

    Divorce is not considered much of a stigma by the younger generation, it is only older generation’s problem. IK marrying a divorcee is not even an issue. If there is an issue, it is why he is not able to bring his family on board for his marriages. He also seems to have ‘informed’ his sons only a few days before the wedding.Recommend

  • Adil

    You forgot to add one more perspective that deeply dwells in our society. In past few days I came across few people, including PTI followers, who were of the view that Imran Khan’s marriage with Reham Khan is actually a demonstration of munificent act of former to the latter.

    They said that as Reham Khan was a divorcee, the probability of her doing something wrong or committing a sin was very high and IK, actually, saved her from being abetted. In fact IK expressed his greatness and merciful attitude by marrying her and consequently protecting from going to hell.

    I had a little argument with them but then I gave up. Their arguments were ugly reflection of our society’s mindset which is going to reside for long. Because change doesn’t come at your doorstep and reality doesn’t care for what we hope. Nevertheless sometimes a quote from the movie ‘Munich’ comes to mind, I wish we all could think and ponder that way:

    “We are supposed to be righteous. That’s a beautiful thing. And we’re losing it. If I lose that, that’s everything. That’s my soul.” ~MunichRecommend

  • Sara

    so true! THANKS for highlighting this stigma which sadly
    exists even among the educated…Recommend

  • Ali

    outstanding blog, people of Pak, plz grow up , prophet two great wives were twice divorcee, bibi khadija RZ was one of them.Recommend

  • Ch. Allah Daad

    Reham Khan have all the qualities of a perfect women. She is beautiful, bold, independent, brave, smart, modern and very intelligent. Negative remarks about her are just “Baqwaas” which low level people and jealous Hijabi Aunties will utter in coming days. Imran Khan is very fortunate to have her, however I can’t say same about her.Recommend

  • aaksays

    And this is a very balanced and morally righteous point of view. Even i have a friend that used to say that ” us ki talaq hui hui ha, wo koi achi aurat nai ha”. ye parhay likhay jahil hain. A degree has conferred nothing upon them but what they need is an education.Recommend

  • oBserver

    Absurdity at its lowest. Things have changed. Recommend

  • Faz

    Very well written. Our society needs to mature up, and rather than pretneding to be a Muslim society, start being one. Learn from the life of our Biggest Teacher this world has ever seen, our Holy Prophet. The way the divorcees were given respect and due place in the society by Holy Prophet, is something that our modren day Mullahs and Selectively Westerenised population ignore equally.Recommend

  • Maximus Decimus Meridius

    I have been following trends on social media ever since the first rumor. In my honest opinion the wedding has actually been “PRAISED” for the fact that IK married a divorced woman. Had he married a single woman a lot younger than himself I am quite sure there would have been an uproar. He also scores good points for marrying a woman who has been a victim of abuse and for marrying simply. I hope these trends catch on.
    So,even though I am not sure exactly to the last digit how many people were against her due to her previous marriage but I can assure you they were outnumbered by the ones who thought her being divorced was a good thing.Recommend

  • Nazr

    Any employee would be suspicious about the reputation of a prospect employee who’s been fired twice from his previous jobs.Recommend

  • FuzzyFTW .

    Stop brainwashing people nobody wants sloppy seconds especially if that person (reham) cheated on their first spouse Recommend

  • faria

    A well written article INDEED!Recommend

  • Kapt Slim

    Very correct analysis of the hypocrisy of our nation when it comes to choose the Sunnah to follow. We follow the Holy Prophet on things which suits us and ignore the ones that are either difficult to follow or are in conflict with our subcontinent culture.
    The writer has correctly analyzed the agony a divorced woman has to experience in our conservative society. First impression of people is that the divorced woman is easily available for nookie. We tend to raise fingers on her character and look at her with the evil eyes. We may be trying to help them but that help is to achieve some nefarious designs. People want others to marry their divorced daughters but are not ready to get their sons married to a divorced woman. What to talk of divorced woman, people are not even ready to digest the possibility of marring an older woman.Recommend

  • Parvez

    What you have said is obviously sensible……..most of the biases against divorced women is a result of shaky societal standards and a flawed value system. In the case of Reham Khan you missed out on the fact that the moment she became a ‘ celebrity ‘ she was an open target for the media….the jaded public…..the jealous female and male, etc and that’s how it works most everywhere.Recommend

  • Anisha

    This needed to be said. Excellent article.Recommend

  • gbbcbb

    Well said… The negative stigma of divorce only applies to divorced women, not divorced women.
    We should look up to strong women… Unfortunately pak men are scared of strong women
    (I am a pak man)Recommend

  • Mj Huzefa

    A very well written articleRecommend

  • Sardar Alam Khan

    Well-written. A great issue is being raised. Bravo!Recommend

  • Ahsan

    nice column, I hope mindset improves. Nice precedent by ImranRecommend

  • Usman Ahmed

    Are we an open society or a close society? I guess we are hypocritical society. *Sigh*
    Recommend

  • Aliza

    AAHHHH women…I was one of those women who took divorce after a year because firstly the man was impotent.then after some time I found out that he was a gay and is indulged in an illicit relationship as a recipient off course. All the emotional turbulance that I went through at the naive age of 21 is un explainable .I tried to make it work a lot but it had came at the verge of physical abuse until one day I retaliated and left.How does it question my chastity?????bewafaaiii bardassht krain aurat??na mardeee bardasht krain aurat ??? I wonder how many women would put up with NA- AURTI if it existed.Pretty much there are many women living with it.If a divorce women can be stigmatised so should divorce men. yeah insaanii haquuq type ki auratain hotee hain because its only them who know how it feels like being hated and used like a door mat so they dont advice anyone else to live with it.Recommend

  • Omar Sadiq

    Dear Farahnaz….I am an avid reader of your articles and look forward to the next ones. That being said, I am a little at loggerhead with myself about this article. The subject of a “divorced woman” and its repercussions in our society is a great after-dinner topic and something which we need to clear the heads of people who think a divorcee (man or woman) should not be given a second chance. However, after reading your article, I don’t know whether you are putting at the forefront the fact that Imran married a divorcee or if your article insinuates that its okay to marry a divorcee. Either way, as a reader and a well wisher, I think that the timing of the article was wrong. All the best for the future.

    Omar Sadiq
    USARecommend

  • KF

    Very well expressed and linked to the recent scenario!Recommend

  • Kamran

    Once Pakistani men get out of the stone ages, the whole nation will move forward. No woman should have to put up with beatings, infidelity or crazy mother in laws. Women do not give up their rights upon marrige, men need to know that their wives can and will leave if not treated with respect and honour. A divorced woman is the same as a divorced man, simply someone who exited a marriage. There is no dishonor in being divorced for a woman or man. I have been happily married to my wife for 16 years and we both treat each other with love and respect.Recommend

  • Asif Usman

    Miss Farahnaz Zahidi
    Kindly do write, but please select a topic which need some brainstorming not for the sake of job!Recommend

  • Asif Usman

    Miss Farahnaz Zahidi
    Kindly do write, but please select a topic which need some brainstorming not for the sake of job!Recommend

  • L.

    Word! Recommend

  • Samina Tahir Khan

    Thank you for bringing up this topic Farahnaz. I personally think that WE female/women are taught to sacrifice and compromise to avoid these “LOG KIYA KAHAIN GAY” and “Duniya walay kiya kahain gay”. Even the girls who have crossed there 30’s are believed to be “HUMAN RIGHTS TYPE” and “BIGRI HUE”. PEOPLE have tongue and they will use it so please let them use it. Girls please be strong and stay that way, no marriage even when your younger sister is happily married or being divorced is just a phase of life and it will pass too. Please dont worry what PEOPLE have to say. Ignore them like we ignore the used tissue papers.Recommend

  • Zaffar Iqbal Durrani

    Aliza! My salute to you.
    I wonder how did you pass those painful 365 days. I would have left earlier if I were you.
    Zaffar Iqbal DurraniRecommend

  • Zaffar Iqbal Durrani

    Nice1 and TrueRecommend

  • Mariyam

    Hats off to you lady. We need more women like you who are not afraid of the’muashra’. I hope you live your life to the fullest!Recommend

  • tasafaahmad

    A very good try to raise voice for women’s right. But why a woman always gets more accountability than a man. To me, it is because she bears more responsibility in shaping the culture of the society or a house. She is more responsible in upbringing the future generation of a nation. She is more responsible in the reformation of future generation or children as a mother, as a sister or as a wife. Pakistan as a country has her own values ( despite of the fact many values don’t exist anymore) but this nation, this country also consists of many sober and intellectual people ( including men and women). Pakistan as a country even deprived of real values but as a nation still admires the leaders of her glorious past,leaders from religious and political background. I am referring religious leader as Prophet Muhammad ( peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and his Caliphates as leaders. Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) married divorcee and implement law to take divorce as a right of a woman( which we proudly put in front of west as human right which we have 1600 yrs ago). But as we see that, those divorced , widowed wives of our leaders left such impact with their intelligence and sober personalities that reformed the nations. Women role is very important in East and West in reformation of nations . There is a famous saying ,”Behind every successful man there is a woman .” so same is for the failures !!Recommend

  • GlobalWorldNewsGuru

    Seriously? This topic does not need to be discussed?Recommend

  • GlobalWorldNewsGuru

    True but r u relating employment to a twice divorced woman Recommend

  • GlobalWorldNewsGuru

    This is the best timing for this article
    And by the way Imran Khan is gaining more from the experience and strength of the “Divorced wife”Recommend

  • GlobalWorldNewsGuru

    Mullah version of Islam has destroyed #PakistanRecommend

  • GlobalWorldNewsGuru

    I love the term ” Hijabi Anties” can I borrow it
    I saw so many faces floating before me when I read that term had a good laugh, wow # Pakistan is full of #Hijabi Anties who r rich and middle class and gossip is their business
    Not a single one will volunteer or do anything of substance not a one Recommend

  • GlobalWorldNewsGuru

    Blythe divorce in Pakistan for a woman means get ready to be screwed at home and office by your blood family and by society
    Rehab became the lightning rod as she was naive to believe that coming in every darn channel will make her popular and opened herself to vile jealousy before she got some roots as a nuclear Powrr Country’s potential leaders wife
    She should have gone in a stealth Bomber Mode shut up and learnt how potential leaders wives operate; instead she was on every darn channel interviewing and exposing her private life
    IMRANSHAIKH sisters did not help
    Sudden the divorced white girl Jemima is the best person but Reham is a floozy for leaving a spouse who did not make her happy! Recommend

  • GlobalWorldNewsGuru
  • GlobalWorldNewsGuru

    And it’s shows why u would be married happily kudos to your mother and father and you not forgetting to give credit to your wife
    I have a Pakistani brother in law like you – love him and his family does tooRecommend