If You Think Divorced Women Can’t Be Happy, You Are Part Of The Problem
Social media is abuzz with the aftermath of Aurat March held on International Women’s Day this Friday. Some placards were termed provocative and a debate has begun on the same. The participants and organisers are of the opinion that there is a need for using such slogans as a means of starting the conversation about women rights issues that are stigmatised.
A photo of activist Nighat Dad, her sister Sahar Dad and journalist Sabahat Zakariya holding a placard that read ‘divorced and happy’ ended up provoking a number of people who said divorce should not be glamorised.
Responding to a tweet criticising the placard, Nighat Dad shared the circumstances surrounding her divorce.
My ex husband gave me divorce because he wanted to marry another woman, didn’t want to support me & 6 months old son also my father told me not to put up with physical abuse. Mind you I started my law practice & work after divorce & made Pakistan proud at several occasions. https://t.co/JZ85Y2mVlu
— Nighat Dad (@nighatdad) March 10, 2019
Sabat Zakariya said that the idea behind the placard was to challenge the stereotypes associated with divorced women.
The point of this placard was to shock you into rethinking your stereotypes. I am interested in the ways in which Pakistani drama polices women’s behaviour, and this was a a direct way of engaging with their bechaari portrayal of divorced women.
— Sabahat Zakariya (@sabizak) March 10, 2019
More women on Twitter who went through a similar situation joined the conversation and shared their experiences.
Author Shazaf Fatima said ending her marriage was not an easy decision, but she discovered herself after the divorce.
21 wHen i got married, 22 i had a baby,23 divorced cause my x husband couldn't stomach an educated girl "tum hath se nikal jaogi". Put up with abuse & was thrown out with my 3 month old baby. I graduated with honors & now I'm a philanthropist, entrepreneur & HR professional! 💃
— Miss. Me (@AnaumJanjua) March 10, 2019
My ex would say the same kay parh likh k tmhara dimagh kharab hogya ha. My mother tells me that they wont let my younger sister gor for higher education as they have seen how it makes women rebellious.
— Tehreem Azeem (@tehreemazeem) March 10, 2019
Women in the patriarchal society of Pakistan are expected to ‘compromise’ in order to save their marriage, but the men are absolved of all responsibilities. Portrayal of women in the local dramas strengthens the same notion. Women who try to quit a toxic or abusive relationship are portrayed as evil.
Talking to Naya Daur, author Shazaf Fatima said the Pakistani society likes to see women suffering. “If you are divorced, they’ll make you feel as if it is the end of the world for you.”
She opined that the placard has angered many because it challenges the patriarchal notion that a woman who refuses to compromise can’t be happy. “If this narrative is challenged, it might stop more women from being embodied into it. This would ultimately harm the patriarchy so they are insecure”, she said.
Shazaf added that sometimes women don’t have the option to get a divorce because of financial instability or if their families are hostile towards the idea of divorce. “But those women who willingly protect status quo even if they have the option to end a toxic relationship are agents of patriarchy”, she said.
Sharing her experience, she said she tried her best to make her marriage work, but one can’t do it singlehandedly. “Women are told that if they keep sacrificing, their abusive husbands would one day start behaving nice. Marriages don’t work that way,” she said, adding that people are uncomfortable because the placard is too rebellious for them to handle.
That the Aurat March managed to generate this much-needed debate means the purpose has largely been served.
The author is News Editor at Naya Daur. She writes on counter-terrorism, human rights and freedom of speech among other issues. She tweets at @AiliaZehra and can be reached at [email protected]