It’s not easy being a female divorcee, especially in Pakistan

Published: May 23, 2016
SHARES
Email

Pakistani Bride and Groom. PHOTO: PINTEREST

I happened to have an incredibly appalling conversation with a male friend the other day. It pretty much went like this;

“Hey did you end up finding a girl for yourself?”

“Yeah, I did, but I ended up rejecting the proposal. She was divorced and seemed quite sharp.”

But, to my surprise, his response didn’t really shock me. Even so, his comments still ring in my head. I was amazed at how an educated and sensible man like him could pass such a judgement. Unfortunately, we’ve been moulded to think divorced women are off limits. They just don’t stand a chance in the ‘marriage market’ we’re all so well acquainted with.

When I logged onto my Facebook account a few days ago, one of the first few things I spotted on my news-feed was a video of a divorced girl who was sharing her story. As I scrolled down, the very next post, which was shared by a friend, was also about divorce. I was moved by their stories; it’s not easy being a female divorcee, especially in Pakistan.

Over the past two decades, the divorce rate in Pakistan has significantly increased but our reaction to it hasn’t changed at all. It’s one of the most painful and devastating times for the couple, as well as the families involved. But, I personally feel that life becomes more of a living hell for women.

People’s reasons for refusing divorced women for marriage stem out of complete ignorance and stupidity. They find the most inane reasons to disregard divorced women as a prospect for marrying.

For instance: she drove her husband away within the first month.

Or better yet: she might have a loose character – that’s probably why she’s divorced.

It gets better.

Some go as far as to say that her degree or her job is the problem; that’s why she wasn’t and will never be capable of being a homemaker.

What’s worse is that women (the victims) themselves are perpetuators of this viciousness. They don’t stop to think it could happen to anyone, maybe their own daughters or sisters. Such allegations are completely immoral and being the devout Muslims we claim to be, we must be extremely careful before we speak – especially, when it comes to dishonouring a woman. Before raising a finger at a divorced woman, think about your daughter, sister, mother or aunt. Be mindful about “exposing” them to the world. Feel their vulnerability, empathise with the mental trauma that they have faced, or are continuing to face.

In our society, a woman is usually held responsible for a broken marriage. She is blamed, insulted, and ridiculed, while men go scot free. Men usually get a new life partner within months, years or in some cases, days. However, women can’t shrug off the label of ‘divorcee’ as easily; their label becomes more of a social stigma. For this reason they either choose to remain divorcees or take a really long time before ever opening up to the idea of remarrying.

Because let’s face it; why would society accept a woman who has been with another man and gone through divorce? That’s not how it works. We only want young and unmarried girls as prospective suitors.

And to be honest, most men don’t really want to marry a divorced woman either. Even if they do, either the family opposes or the ‘log kya kahay gei’ (what will people say) factor will kick in.

What is the reason behind the ever increasing divorce rates?

Expectations, interfering in-laws, incompatibility, forced marriages, greed, and intolerance are some answers. However, according to me, intolerance takes the first position in the list of reasons.

Divorce is a legal right and it is religiously allowed as well. But even then, it is discouraged by God. A happily ever after requires huge amounts of sacrifice, respect, and input at the beginning. In our society, the secret of a happy marriage is

Qabu karna or muthi mai rakhna,”

(Keep the woman in your control)

Unfortunately, there are no pills or magic spells that do that.

The secret to a successful marriage is to win hearts and winning someone’s heart requires a lot of effort. Along with this, tolerance is key.

Marriage is not about the mehndi, mayun, dancing, singing, dowry, clothes and food. It is an oath newlyweds take to face the ups and down of life together and to support each other in every walk of life. But nowadays, people spend millions on each event but don’t bother educating their children on such integral matters.

The nikkah ceremony has become a formality; no one pays attention to the clauses stated in the nikkah sermon. Families and guests are more interested in what’s on the menu and the giveaways and the bride and grooms families just don’t stop bragging about the customised items they have ordered for the wedding. People waste months shopping for the ‘perfect wedding,’ but no one takes out time to teach the bride or groom what to expect and how to react to different post wedding situations.

Is there no way to teach our children and future generations that marriage is a commitment; a unifying factor that needs to be nourished with patience, tolerance, love, humility and respect in order for it to bloom? Let’s not teach our children the wrong values, let’s learn to understand and not judge.

It is easier to condemn divorce than to understand what the reasons behind it were. It’s possible that the divorce was inevitable for reasons unknown to us. Our duty towards this issue is to not blame women or presume what led to their marriages falling apart; it is to teach ourselves and our children the aforementioned qualities.

Teach your sons not to slander and reject a woman because she is divorced. Teach your sons not to bad mouth a woman once he isn’t her husband anymore and vice versa. That is when we will be able to celebrate healthy relationships.

Ambreen Shah

Ambreen Shah

The author is a biochemist, a dreamer, and a learner. She is trying to become a better person and wants to make a positive difference in the world.

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

  • vinsin

    Women divorcing their husband is only allowed in rare cases. Only men can divorce their wife at will religiously. From TNT point of views a Muslim Nikah should not have mehndi, mayun, dancing, singing, dowry, clothes and food. Those kind of marriage is for Hindus.

    “Marriage is a commitment; a unifying factor that needs to be nourished
    with patience, tolerance, love, humility and respect in order for it to
    bloom” – that is again a Hindu or Dharmic view towards marriage not Islamic. Arabs dont marry like that.

    Last para can be taught from prophet life and actions.Recommend

  • Wahab Ali

    The author raises a valid point and there is a social stigma for female divorcees which we need to overcome. However, there is a flip side to this problem which is seldom discussed. There is a condition of marriage imposed on men as well, that they should be financially stable and have good future prospects in order to get married because it is the moral and religious responsibility of the man to provide for his wife and children irrespective of whether his wife earns or not. In today’s day and age, most people become financially stable in their early or mid 30’s. Therefore, is it really reasonable to expect a man, who has finally earned the right to get married, to marry a divorced or widowed woman possibly with a child or two? No matter how much we try most men won’t do it, especially when there are statistically more young unmarried females than men who are looking for a partner. The solution therefore, is to allow men to take these divorced or widowed women as second wives if they can afford to do so financially, emotionally and physically as is recommended by Islam. But alas that firstly our reserved society and secondly modern feminism have made out plygyny – which has been practiced by most noble of all men i.e prophets, to be nothing more than a tool for men to fulfill their desires.Recommend

  • Rahul

    Worldwide, about 70-85 % of the Divorces are filed by women. the reason women file the majority of Divorces is complex. Women are emotional creatures. The more independent they become, the more dissatisfied they become with their spouses. Their expectations are not grounded in reality. They think they will attract the same attention at 35 with 2 kids as they did at 25 and single. There is magical thinking about their future, their desirability and the men available to them. They think they can come out ahead in Divorce by getting control of the kids/ common property. They want to teach their spouse a lesson he won’t forget. Second marriages are even more fragile than first and men are right to be suspicious of the divorced woman. She comes with baggage from the first marriage. If she has children from the first, they have every incentive to try to destroy her second marriage. Why a man would pick a divorced woman when there are plenty of never married ones to choose from? She had her chance and she blew it so save your sympathy for someone else.Recommend

  • Keyboard Soldier

    Independent women are a source of anxiety for their husbands and extra-friendly husbands are a source of suspicion for their wives.

    It is quite natural to have extra-marital affairs for both working women and men. The human genetics will always supercede man-made morals.

    Pakistan is a very closed society – borderline saudi/iranian in terms of backward beliefs – that worships all sorts of myths and tribal-arabic (Islam) scriptures that have clear instructions for managing women.

    Therefore, when it comes to independent women, the man will always be suspicious of his wife.

    There aren’t many successful marriages that have lasted longer than 5 years where both men and women work for a living. We are not talking about females working in schools – though their plight is not so different either – but in proper office/corporate environments.

    In a hardcore Muslim society a husband cannot tolerate his wife having “male work friends.”Recommend

  • Abuzar Jamil

    Sadly marriage nowadays is all about mehndi, mayun, dancing, singing, dowry, clothes and food. Millions are spent on these things and it just shows, what our priorities are. A simple religious function is turned into a carnival.Recommend

  • asd

    nice articleRecommend

  • Wahab Ali

    The author raises a valid point and there is a social stigma for divorced female women which we need to overcome. However, there is a flip side to this problem which is seldom discussed. There is a condition of marriage imposed on men as well, that they should be financially stable and have good future prospects in order to get married because it is the moral and religious responsibility of the man to provide for his wife and children irrespective of whether his wife earns or not. In today’s day and age, most people become financially stable in their early or mid 30’s. Therefore, is it really reasonable to expect a man, who has finally earned the right to get married, to marry a divorced or widowed woman possibly with a child or two? No matter how much we try most men won’t do it, especially when there are statistically more young unmarried females than men who are looking for a partner. The solution therefore, is to allow men to take these divorced or widowed women as second wives if they can afford to do so financially, emotionally and physically as is recommended by Islam. But alas that firstly our reserved society and secondly modern feminism have made out polygyny – which has been practiced by most noble of all men i.e prophets, to be nothing more than a tool for men to fulfill their desires.Recommend

  • maz3tt

    If anyone reads that famous tohfah-e-dulha and tohfah-e-dulhan and then follow it even 10% then everything will be OK. We so proudly says that we are not practicing Muslim. May God guide us.
    Well also I think that the wife should close her ears to all her aunties ,friends and mother after getting married. if she is intelligent she will do it. In most of the cases ”It is a woman who is another woman’s enemy”

    In one of the instance the girl doesn’t want to cook. few months passed by, honeymoon period ended. now the husband want’s her to cook. the things got intensified, the girl’s mother took her side and said ”’how dare he ask my princess to cook”. ”’ then these women tell their daughters to leave their husbands and come home for a few days to teach him a lesson
    The husband doesnt come and approaches his father. Interesting thing, that till now the girl’s father is out of loop of what is going on in his daughter life. He took the things in his hand and save the day.Recommend

  • Guest

    agreeRecommend

  • aamir

    very logical…totally agreeRecommend

  • Onga Bonga

    Divorcees are also not common in Pak filthy society. To get a divorce you need to do a lot. Divorcees are already hard skinned and big fighter so no worries they can manage well post divorce effects.Recommend

  • YOUSUF I KHAN

    Thanks for writing this piece Ambreen – slowly but surely we will cure these diseases in our society inshaAllah.
    I am married to a previously divorced woman and Alhamdulillah have a great happy life. We have two kids and everything else that we can ask for.Recommend

  • me

    “There aren’t many successful marriages that have lasted longer than 5 years where both men and women work for a living.” This statement is completely incorrect there are many couples that I know where both of them work and in corporate environments and have been married for years.Recommend

  • najam

    Divorce is a legal right and it is religiously allowed as well. But even then, it is discouraged by “God”. you mean ALLAH??
    Nice blog, but are there any stats for unmarried women marrying divorced guys ???Recommend

  • Xyz

    That’s a very biased view and where did you get your 70-80% number from? Please read the recent BBC report in chores gap for working women and perhaps you will find that insightful.
    As women become financially independent they are not willing to conform to traditional view of being treated as a second class member of family and that’s fair. It’s not about unrealistic expectations about desirability, in many cases its about claiming self respect. And if you think women are not treated unfairly in a greater proportions then you definitely are detached from reality.
    Also the perception that divorced women are necessarily expecting second marriage is wrong. In urban areas in India there is growing trend of more women preferring to stay single instead of even the first marriage and a lot of that is because of complete mismatch of traditional societal belief of women being inferior to men that these women are not willing to accept.Recommend

  • Jayman

    It is the same in India too – especially the North of India. The South is much more progressive and more accepting of change. That may perhaps be due to better standards of education and by nature being less aggressive people.Recommend

  • Jayman

    @Rahul, You’ve got it totally wrong. Women file for more divorces because they are most often the victims. In fact, I will go so far as saying there are disproportionately more women who are victims but choose to stay in an abusive marriage, than the women who actually file for a divorce. The reasons may be as varied as societal pressures, family pressures, welfare of children, inability to support themselves etc. etc.Recommend

  • tahir

    the concept of divorcee women is wrong.sepration take place between the two contractee.,so both r divorcee.sepration takes place, because,ground realities are not studied in depth,,both the parties donot spea truth in atrutfuul manner before contracting marriege.they hanto sorted details of theire future plans after marriege, they failed to properly match theire KUFEWE.which mean theire SOCIALE,samajee, educational faimly back ground, faimly setup,theire point of viewe about diffrenent aspects of life,faimly financial back grounds, last but not the least following principal to lie, hide facts ,ignoring changes comming in socilstructure of society and behairiel attitude..to get divorce or give divorce is not a sin. it is astep to give thoudht to his or her follies and start anew lifeRecommend

  • Hash

    Let’s think other way round. I have read a blog and comments below and what I realized particularly about comments is the ‘chauvinist’ mindset which is very much prevalent in our society. Almost all comments targeted women like ‘first marriage baggage’ ‘male work friends’ are the common taunt towards women but this is not the justice. Justice should be done to both men and women. Why men go for extra-marital affairs even she has a wife at home and why he has female co-worker friends’? Why these can only be conceived and consider harmful in the context of women why not of men? Men should embrace the same ethics of life as we expect from women and don’t take advantage of being ‘male’ or ‘strong’. Being a man and sociologist, I can’t put all the blames on women because I have to understand my limits and responsibilities towards society and women to create a friendly and peaceful society. Bests.Recommend

  • Hash

    I second your thoughts. I know how these days girl family victimize male when you send proposal to her. There is a wishlist of girl’s family given to male before they tie the knot of relationship. There is a list of demand as you mentioned in a comment and if boy or male fulfills them then he would be eligible to get married otherwise they say goodbye to him. Decency and simplicity are the secondary things nowadays even he earns good sum of money to provide better or comfortable lifestyle. What a pity!Recommend

  • Saher

    I think you meant to say “weddings” are all about that. Truth is we keep focusing on the wedding and the related events. However there needs to be more focus on the institution of marriage and how to make it work by both parties.Recommend

  • kamran

    believe me, if a woman obeys, understand and follow her husband in its
    true spirit rather than those who gives her tons of advices from her
    family circle, their life will always remain peaceful and calm. it often
    gets worse when they more rely on advices of others than her partner.
    Further don’t discuss your petty problems with your mothers and sisters,
    they always unconsciously ruin your life and you think they are great
    sympathizer of you in the world.Recommend

  • Xenab a

    Wow this is the most ignorant comment ive ever read. If women take a divorce its usually because theyre victims. I havent gottena divorce but ive been a victim of an abusive engagement anf i saw everyones reactions against me like i did something wrong. When i started talking about it i found many many women in a similar situations, because of mindsets like youra. Men judging women by saying they come with baggage and should look for younger ones sound like theyre buying sex slaves from a market. And saying she had her chance and blew it, really shows the depth of your characterRecommend

  • gp65

    What if she does not obey her husband and follow him? The criteria you have stated for marriage to be successful are totally biased towards men.Recommend

  • rationalist

    “The criteria you have stated for marriage to be successful are totally biased towards men.”

    May be true, but what @kamran says is supported by Islam and sharia.Recommend

  • Zack

    I think each case is to be viewed in the light of circumstances peculiar to it.You cannot generalize and fit all reasons to every divorce. In brief I would say that there do not exist an ideal situation where all the parties to a successful marriage are fulfilling their duties.Some one must sacrifice to make it work,may it be wife,husband or parents of both.Previously girls were not financially independent therefore they had to sacrifice in most of the cases.This changed when more and more of girls became financially independent. Unfortunately now the pendalum is moving too much on the other side.Recently girls do not show tolerence towards a small issue and I have seen they do not want the boys to have any tilt towards their parents.All they know these days is about their rights and not bothered about the duties in this relationship. Moreover, they pick only that portion of islamic guidance which suits them,the most famous one is that they are not suppose to look after the parents of boy,each one is liable for their parents.This is true and fine but they expect husbands to support them in fulfilling their duty but when it comes to supporting husband to fulfill his duty towards his parents they hold back and in some cases show resentment towards this.Islam does say that but at the same time Islam also says to take care of neighbours even.Does the parents of a boy do not fall in that category?Our double standards lead us to destroy the relationship.
    The basic thing in successful marriage is sincere commitmentment to each other,and to get some thing you have to pay some kind of cost,nothing comes free of cost.Not only this relationship, in fact every relationship needs some sacrifice to nurture.Recommend