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Pakistani Women Have Been In Quarantine Even Before Corona

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Bakhtawar Aziz writes about the daily struggle of Pakistani women in conservative household who have to spend all their lives inside the house. Pakistani men complaining about quarantine should empathise with these women.

Pakistani men these days are complaining about how they can no longer go out and socialise due to the lockdown and social distancing measures being enforced by the government. They feel too suffocated staying home within the four confines. Some have even started the most tedious job of cooking food, just to defy the boredom. Who would have thought!

For them, it is an unusual happening which has resulted from a global pandemic. But little do they know, their quarantine time is what most women in Pakistan have to go through all their lives. Women in our society are told that their place is inside the house because our streets are not safe for them. But no one tells these men to mend their ways and stop making the streets unsafe for women by catcalling and ogling at them.

Not too long ago, a controversial playwright Khalilur Rehman Qamar was all over our TV screens, preaching what a ‘good woman’ should or shouldn’t do. His act of abusing a woman panelist on live TV gave rise to a fresh wave of misogyny on social media where his filthy-minded supporters advocated that a woman who does not know her place should be abused just the way he abused Marvi Sirmed. I remember how I was asked by a Khalilur Rehman Qamar fan to ‘stay at home’ if I am so concerned about sexual harassment. Unfortunately, this is the reality of most women in Pakistan’s conservative households. They are told that good women stay home because their ‘honour’ is too sensitive to be put at the risk of getting harmed. Even in 2020, it’s difficult for most women in Pakistan to convince their families to let them have a career and work just like their brothers and other male members of the family do.

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I recently read a feature online which mentions how matchmaking women (locally referred to as rishta aunties) hardly accept applications in which the potential bride is a working woman. According to them, most families ‘demand’ girls who do not go out to work but can do all the household chores. So if you’re a working woman in Pakistan, most people would look at you as if you’re an unchaste woman who goes out just to prey on men and fulfill her sexual desires.

It is due to this perception that women are told to not stay out of the house for long. Basically, a good woman is the one who locks herself up inside the house and remains completely divorced to what is happening in the outer world. And unfortunately, a large number of girls have no option but to follow these cruel rules. They have to live all their lives in quarantine. So before Pakistani men complain about being confined to the house due to coronavirus, maybe spare a thought for the women who deal with this on a daily basis, with or without corona?

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