Stories about honour

When a dupatta and a nose ring become agents of patriarchy

Coming from a conservative Muslim family where your male cousins won’t even look at you if you are not wearing a dupatta, I have always felt that my body was constantly scrutinised and kept under the male gaze. Forcing clothing around my breasts and a silver wire around my nose was equivalent to patriarchy establishing its territory. My gender which is deemed to be the ‘lesser one’ was expected to wear a sexualised cloth and a ring in order to assert my cultural identity as it makes me ‘unique’ and less ‘westernised’. Women and their bodies have always been pedestalised to ...

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Widowed, divorced, unmarried: Taking cue from Bangladesh’s amended marriage laws

Since 1961, Bangladesh’s Muslim marriage laws required the bride to select one of the three options on a marriage certificate: widowed, divorced or kumari (virgin). Whereas, grooms had no similar requirement. However, earlier this week, Bangladesh’s highest court overturned this extremely medieval law. Now, not only will the word ‘virgin’ be removed but marriage certificates will also require grooms to select their marital status as either unmarried, widowed or divorced. This monumental step wasn’t easy for the lawyers and activists involved in this case. It took five years for the court to hear their petition. And while they issued a brief verdict straight ...

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5 reasons why Cheekh is unlike any Pakistani drama so far

Bidding adieu to 2018 with some great Pakistani dramas, our local industry has welcomed the new year with even better ones. Thankfully, we are finally over the typical and redundant saas-bahu sagas, and show runners are venturing into arenas that have remained untapped thus far. The latest attempt to bring something new to the palate of drama lovers is the drama serial Cheekh. Starring the stunning Saba Qamar and heartthrob Bilal Abbas Khan in the lead roles, this new show is something very out-of-the box as we have not seen anything similar coming from our drama-makers in the recent past. Intelligently ...

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#TherapistDiaries: Anxiety, depression and suicide – the realities of forced marriages

She was barely 19 at the time. She sat on a silver throne decorated with floral arrangements with a posture similar to that of a sacrificial being. My emotions in this moment were as artificial as the floral arrangements. I looked over at the 50-year-old man sitting beside her, and could no longer pretend to be happy. Because that’s when it registered – she was getting married to this man. All of a sudden, my conversations with this girl, with whom I had played games throughout my childhood, came rushing to my mind. I also recalled what she had told me just a ...

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Haiwan: When will our dramas stop misrepresenting rape and child abuse?

While highlighting social taboos and evils through local dramas is a bold initiative that our entertainment industry has been taking for around two years now, it doesn’t always hit the mark. At times, our serials normalise things that ought not to be, sometimes in the wake of ratings and sometimes because the makers want to portray situations as close to reality as possible. Recently, the much-hyped drama serial Haiwan, that kicked off the trend of #MyChildMyResponsibility on social media, concluded on a deeply unsatisfactory note. A drama that was meant to give a strong message of protecting children from the predators that ...

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Dear PEMRA, it is our society that is ‘indecent’; our dramas are merely a portrayal of it

The performing arts are considered a tool for providing entertainment, relaxation and catharsis to society. Before the invention of the television, stage dramas, dancing and poetry were all important mediums in people’s lives, showing just how necessary entertainment is for us. Pakistan’s first official TV channel was launched in 1964, and we soon saw the rise of our drama industry with classic plays like Ankahi, Waris and Tanhaiyaan. However, after General Ziaul Haq’s martial law and the subsequent Islamisation of society, the entertainment industry was not spared either. As a result, the film industry gradually vanished and dramas became more ...

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Lacking poignancy, ‘What Will People Say’ could have been more nuanced and relatable

In her second movie, What Will People Say, Pakistani-Norwegian filmmaker Iram Haq tries to relay the experience of a teenager who is caught between the fairly conservative background of her family and the liberal atmosphere of the country she calls home. The film – which is apparently inspired by the director’s own life – is centred on the story of 16-year-old Nisha (Maria Mozhdah), who is a typical Norwegian girl when she’s out with her friends but forced to conform to her parents’ strict rules when she is at home. After being caught fooling around with her boyfriend in her ...

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Sindh may lack basic amenities but its women surely know how to break glass ceilings

From the very moment they are born, our girls are taught they are dependent upon the men in the family. As the girls become women, they grow up believing they need their fathers, brothers, husbands or sons to look after them and protect them. However, most Pakistani men are unfortunately good at depriving women of their social rights under the garb of religion or culture. Women are often denied an education or the chance to gain employment, deprived of their due share in inheritance, and even killed in the name of honour under the guise of “protection”. Amidst all the ...

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#MeToo: I was 8 when he taught me that a woman’s body is everyone else’s but her own

“Dekh ke aahangar ki dukaan mein Tund hai shu’le, surkh hai aahan.” (See how in the blacksmith’s forge, Flames leap high and steel glows red) I was 15-years-old when I wrote a letter to my father. I was struggling at school, getting into trouble in the neighbourhood and fighting with my siblings at home. You know the usual teenage angst. I wrote, “Dad, I know what S* uncle did. I remember everything. I need help.” The week after, my father insisted that I attend a family friend’s wedding with him. At the wedding, he asked me to step outside the hall for five minutes. ...

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Because smoking damages a man’s lungs and ruins a woman’s honour

While universities around the world are trying to promote freedom of expression and invest in the development of their students, in the case of Pakistan, higher education institutions are stifling debate, cracking down on any independent thought and churning out automatons by the hundreds. For instance, they are more focused on wasting paper with unoriginal research papers, as former students of University of Engineering and Technology (UET) were recently caught plagiarising a whole paper verbatim and almost got away with having it published. International Islamic University Islamabad (IIUI) has stopped its students from celebrating Pakhtun culture day, while Punjab University arrested ...

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