Stories about women in Pakistan

Would you be able to sleep at night knowing your daughter is being subjected to violence at that very moment?

The recent murder cases of Samia Shahid and Qandeel Baloch, both victims of ‘honour killing,’ put yet another question mark on our resolve to fight violence against women. Such cases also serve to rejuvenate the controversial debate that societies tend to tolerate violence against women which, in turn, leads to more violence against women. For me, before being acquainted with data on countries where such beliefs persist, it was unimaginable that some women think domestic violence is acceptable. I think most readers would be surprised to know that wife beating, the most common form of domestic violence, is not just a norm in most countries, but also found acceptable ...

Read Full Post

Am I immoral because I’m attracted to my husband?

During a conversation with a female friend, she let me in on a strange secret. She said, “Once, my husband doubted my morality,” I remained silent, mostly out of curiosity. She continued and said, “It happened when I tried to get intimate with him; not with a stranger but with him, my own husband.” “What exactly do you mean?” I asked bewildered. “He hadn’t come home from work and I was missing him. Aroused, I approached him, thinking he’d appreciate that. In return he gave me a stern look and said, what is wrong with you? Why are you behaving so immorally?” This was expressed with ...

Read Full Post

If we can empathise with the protagonists struggle in Tamasha why can’t we empathise with the struggle in Sanam Teri Kasam?

Last week, after watching Mawra Hocane’s Bollywood debut Sanam Teri Kasam (STK), I was oddly overwhelmed. It wasn’t because of the cliché storyline that left the audience weeping but in fact, the social issue that the movie deals with; the purulent shaadi (marriage) problem. The one that is so widespread in our society but yet many fail to recognise. This movie narrates the story of a 22-year-old who has been rejected by 10 suitors owing to what is presumed to be her nerdy look: the kind that guys allegedly don’t swoon over. In attempts to gain self-worth, the protagonist seeks the rescue of her ...

Read Full Post

I do not think my female friends should come back to Pakistan

“It is hard being back. It’s like every decision I make is not my own. I cannot even walk on the streets or go out late without my mom worrying. And do not even get me started on the questions I face about my marriage plans.” These words from my friend, who recently returned from her graduate degree in the UK, have become a recurring theme in my conversations with all my female friends going back home to Pakistan after living abroad. I currently happen to live in New York, with quite a few graduate students from Pakistan. And I do not want ...

Read Full Post

We need to stop treating menstruation as a ‘fault’

“So what do you do when you… you know… have your monthly period?” I said to my domestic helper, after my mouth-gaping-open-in-shock reaction was over and I found my voice. For an urban woman, what she was telling me was unthinkable. I was truly scandalised that many women in Pakistan’s underprivileged parts walk around with no sanitary cloth or napkins when they have their menstrual period. Others do use folded pieces of cloth, she told me, but even then the hygiene conditions she was describing were hardly satisfactory. The year was 2010. Pakistan had been hit by one of the worst ...

Read Full Post

A female taxi driver? Beysharam!

Do you remember the first time you drove? The very first time? When you had the ability to control a vehicle, the possibility of understanding the gears and the speeds and the various knobs and buttons that propel a collection of steel and bolts, and transport you from one place to another? I remember that well – it gave me a sense of independence. It gave me the feeling of having control. But that’s me. I was privileged enough to learn how to drive, not because I had mouths to feed. No one stopped me from driving, no one told me I ...

Read Full Post

Why the BBC’s Lyse Doucet failed to understand Pakistan

One normally doesn’t expect someone like the BBC’s Lyse Doucet to indulge in ‘parachute journalism’, so when I came across this rather odious report by her for BBC, I was kind of taken aback. (For those of you who are wondering what exactly this ‘parachute journalism’ is, it relates to foreign correspondents going to a foreign land – normally seen as ‘exotic’, or in Pakistan’s case ‘very violent’, ‘un-liveable’ and so on – for a very brief period and doing a report for a western audience based on that very short visit). When I first looked at the headline “Book ...

Read Full Post

Pakistani women, cricket and their dilemma

To stand in the sunlight, over the lush green grass of a cricket ground, surrounded by hordes of people cheering you on while you aim to annihilate the stumps with that ball in your hand is no longer just a man’s dream. Today, women too aspire to have a career in cricket and recent events have shown that they are very much capable of becoming great cricketers. The Pakistan women’s cricket team made it to the limelight when the national squad won medals in the 2010 Asian Games and brought glory to their nation. This was a major milestone, not just for the ...

Read Full Post

Can a woman in Pakistan play sports without being sexually harassed?

One of the biggest impediments to women participating, or being allowed to participate, in any form of sports in Pakistan is that of sexual harassment. Just yesterday, we all learned about the tragic demise of Haleema Rafiq, the young and talented 17-year-old cricketer. She was one of five girls who had the courage to raise her voice by accusing the Multan Cricket Ground of several instances of sexual harassment that took place last year. However, rather than taking her accusations seriously and wasting no time in conducting a serious investigation, Rafiq’s cry for help fell upon deaf ears. Her case ...

Read Full Post

Why #BanBossy won’t work for women in Pakistan

Sheryl Sandberg, author of Lean In and the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Facebook is on a mission. A couple of weeks ago, she, in collaboration with a star line-up of women in other leadership roles launched the ‘Ban Bossy’ (#BanBossy) campaign. They argue on their website that, “When a little boy asserts himself, he’s called a ‘leader’. Yet, when a little girl does the same, she risks being branded ‘bossy’. Words like bossy send a message: don’t raise your hand or speak up. By middle school, girls are less interested in leading than boys – a trend that continues into adulthood. Together we can encourage ...

Read Full Post