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As a child, I adored marriages and weddings. There was something mesmerizing about the sound of a dholki, the traditions, the colors, the laughs, the music, the dance, the bride and the food of course. Everything about marriages consumed me.
My mom always use to say, “we’ll find you one soon beta!” and I am not going to lie, I used to get very delighted. The concept of arranged marriage is well-accepted in Pakistan. It has been practiced for as far back as colonialism.
No, the goras had nothing to do with this. But now when I think about it, arranged marriage is the worse treatment one can offer to a woman. Pakistan is ranked second last in gender equality. For every 10 men in the workforce, only 4 women are employed. Aside from the awful wage gap and unequal opportunities, half of the country’s potential is rotting behind pardas or has become a victim of an abusive shohar, who has married a maid that he calls his biwi.
In most cases, arranged marriages are followed by violence against women. Violence against women has become one of the acceptable means whereby men exercise their culturally constructed ”right” to control women. What do I have against arranged marriage?
A LOT! but I am going to group them together. I do not intend to put words in women’s mouth. So why am I speaking up against arranged marriage? Because it seems biased when women speak up. So it is important that men address these issues. (let me put these in bullet points because I am going to let you all take notes. So grab a pen and a paper because THIS brown guy is going to vent)
It is discriminatory. Appearance-based preference?
“Allah Khair, Tauba Tauba!” Because obviously women have no desires. If you are a poor, but beautiful Pakistani girl, the likelihood of marrying a clean-cut guy just went down by… a great deal. Because what mother would sell out her son for less dowry? Jokes!
If you are fortuitous, you might score a guy who treats you with respects because at the end of the day respect is all a woman craves. Increasing demand for dowry, both before and after marriage, can escalate into harassment, physical violence, and emotional abuse.
It objectifies women. “Come on beta! we are going rishta shopping!” Seriously?
It’s not like they is a buy one get one free lawn sale going on. We are talking about an actual person here. I can only imagine how they, the girls, feel when larkey walay “reject” the girl. It deeply hurts a girl’s self-esteem because now she feels she isn’t qualified or capable. I am disgusted by this practice. It portrays women as mere objects. I explained this to my roommate at my University in the U.S. and he called bullshit. “What guy in his right mind would wanna do that? It’s like…I don’t know..prostitution! but more civilized” – Tim Walker, my roommate.
It creates immense pressure and distress for women
Men! I am talking to you. Listen! Pay attention to what I am about to say. Imagine leaving everything you have ever known and moved to a disparate household with strange people who expect more than you can offer. You will have no autonomy and there is a chance that you’ll end up facing gender-based violence.
You will have certain sets of duties that you will need to perform every day
No! I am not talking about slavery, although close. You can’t fall short of your duties or there are going to be atrocious consequences. You will have to live with a person who you have only seen in pictures and you are expected to please him and expect nothing in return. Did anyone throw up yet?
Men don’t learn how to respect women
We understand that if we work hard to achieve something, whether it’s a degree, a car or a dream job, it holds a lot more value than if it was just handed to us. What I love about western culture and love marriages is that if a guy plans on marrying a girl, he earns her trust, he respects her and makes her his number one priority before she decides to spend the rest of her life with him.
And before you start arguments like, “well divorce rate is much lower in arrange marriages.” Ok, let me hit you with some facts. Women don’t have the right to choose in arranged marriage, so how can one even imagine if they will have the right to divorce after marriage.
A United Nations research study found that 50% of the women in Pakistan are physically battered and 90% are mentally and verbally abused by their men
Hmm, she must’ve done something really shameful (This is a big one). Our social structure consists of people who like to talk and most of the times they talk about other’s personal matters, because Aunties have nothing better to do with their lives.
We also have the bad habit of assuming shit. “how can she just abandon her shohar and family like that?” Fact check! In the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, only men have a right to divorce with three sharp words. We don’t imagine or even consider the actual reason behind the divorce. What happens to women after the divorce? Most of the times women are restrained to abusive relationships because of inability to escape their detainees due to social and cultural pressures.
Parents do not encourage their daughters to return home for fear of being stained as a divorcee. But when they do escape, there is always a fear of retaliation, little to no means of economic support, a burden of the children, emotional dependency, lack of support from family and friends and the abiding hope that one day she might turn her life around. In Pakistan divorce continues to be a taboo and social pressures prevent women from reaching out for help.
Most abused women don’t ever tell anyone about the abuse. Children who witness marital violence face increased the risk for emotional and behavioral problems, including anxiety, depression, poor school performance, low self-esteem, nightmares, and disobedience.
Arranged marriage is in nobody’s interest. Why should arranged marriage be a woman’s primary goal in life? Why is the freedom of choice only applicable to men? It all sums down to, “What will people say?” Parents! Neither did these ”people” raise your daughter nor do they love her. You did!
This is a message for all the parents in Pakistan who have daughters. You must understand that you are the key to change. You can end all of this by giving your daughters the right to choose, assess and analyze the person that she intends to marry.
She will marry when she is in the right mindset, or when she is completely satisfied by her choice or when she has achieved the goals that she always dreamed of since childhood. Give her a break. If you are afraid of letting your daughters be all alone in the wild, throw in a pepper spray and a Swiss knife.
Educate them about your values and why they should uphold them. It all comes down to how you cherish them. Educate your sons on treating women with respect instead of undermining a woman’s autonomy. Today women have an amazing weapon. It’s called the social media.
Women are furious, brutal and unstoppable. They are using social media as a platform to speak up against century old violence and marginalization. They are reaching out, exploring possibilities, planning events and executing targets. They are rising, progressing, and gleaming with raw potential. Pakistan is still better than its South Asian counterparts.
I am very optimistic about the future of women of Pakistan and it is just a matter of time before Pakistan progresses towards gender equality