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

Published: May 23, 2016
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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.