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Being A Woman In Pakistan

February 5, 2014

As a western woman in Islamabad, I am free.  I can drive my car;  wear whatever I want within reason (knees and shoulders covered and a scarf artistically draped will do the job pretty much anywhere); and shop anywhere I like by myself.   I am lucky.

It is not the same outside of the city, however.   The north of Pakistan, for example, is very beautiful.  My friend is hoping to go and live there, but it’s not going to be easy.  Even dressed in the most conservative manner she will be unable to go shopping without a male chaperone.  Bizarrely, however, a child will do, even one as young as 5.  Fortunately she has a little boy and so will be able to visit the shops.

I asked how ‘normal’ Pakistanis managed.  Apparently the thing to do is to sit in your car and get your driver to go out to the shops for you, avoiding the need to interact with strange males yourself.

I am a fan of the blogs on The Express Tribune website.  They offer a fascinating insight into what educated Pakistanis are thinking, both conservative and liberal.  At the turn of the year I was treated to a run down of 13 things I should not do for my husband, such as be offended when he criticises my cooking (headed “It’s Not Personal, You Just Don’t Cook Well)  and 14 things I should do.  These included such gems as ‘Being his eye-candy’ and not moaning when he comes in from work, but smiling and pretending all is well even when it isn’t.

It’s easy to knock lists like this just because they read like a manual from the 19th century.  Some of the points are good ones.  I, too, agree that you should make an effort with your husband’s family. It’s good for him, good for your children and, if you have wonderful in-laws like mine, good for you too.  However there was, in both lists, a complete lack of expectation that he would reciprocate. Marriage isn’t seen as team work, which is how my husband and I like to think of it, but exists solely for the pleasure and convenience of the husband.

And yet these lists are a world away from the harsher reality for many Pakistani women.  In today’s paper alone there was a little article containing three separate short paragraphs.  The first paragraph dealt with a Mr Asif who, on Monday, suspected his wife of loose morals so he strangled her and threw her body off the roof of his house.

In the second paragraph Mr Hassan killed his wife and hanged her body from a tree to make it look like suicide.  Her uncle, who was coming to visit her, found him in the act.  The uncle also reported that Hassan had often beaten his wife and been abusive towards her.

In the third paragraph a man asked his niece to marry his son (her cousin).  She refused.  He and some friends went to visit her and, finding her alone, shot her dead.

To repeat, none of these stories warranted more than a short paragraph in a side article.

As I said, I am a western woman and I am lucky.

One Comment
  1. Candace permalink

    I am very thankful that I am from America. Best wishes to you and yours!


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