In the streets of rural Punjab long ago lived a girl who wanted to marry the one she loved. Salman was her lover and her desired future husband; Sara was a girl who ran with him from her house. This is a story about honor in Pakistan
Honor in Pakistan
She thought escaping this situation would resolve each and every problem, and her parents will surely forgive her after marriage. But no, the boy ended up a mere cheat. He befouled her, raped her, took money and left her alone. The nights spent in a stranger’s house-made Sara realize the importance of her parents. But there are things which cannot be regained again.
The virginity of the girl was lost. The honor which she held as before was lost in the eyes of her parents and relatives. She came back home. She had to because there was no other chance of survival. Her parents beat her, cursed her and then fixed an arranged marriage of both their daughters, Sara and the younger one Hina. They did what they thought was in the best interest of their daughter. But after marriage, the issue did not resolve. The husband came to know the past incident and doubted her character.
Honor as a White Cloth
People in the subcontinent consider the character as a piece of white cloth on which even a light stain is clearly visible. You can relate it to the folk words, “Laaga chunre mein dagh chupaun kaise”. In Urdu, that means “how am I going to hide the stain on my scarf? It will eventually be visible to everyone and my image will be tarnished for once and all.” In the subcontinent, parents are held responsible for the mistakes committed by their children. They are subjected to a series of never-ending social trial. This is what happened with Sara’s parents. They were questions for things they were never responsible. They were considered careless for not doing proper upbringing of their daughter. Even the siblings were maltreated in their social circle.
The condition became so bad that they started shirking to meet people. It is because they were not prepared to answer the embarrassment and insult. They knew that it was Sara’s hard luck and mistake, but the judgmental society forgives none. This is what happens in the society.
Sara realized her mistake of not having the courage to convince her parents and had to swallow the bait. Her parents arranged her marriage with a far-off person, namely Saad. Upon marriage with Saad, a far-off relative living in Karachi, a city of Sindh, things did not go the way she imagined. In a period of few months, he came to know her past and started doubting her character.
Honor and Equality in Pakistan
Questioning the honor and prestige of a woman is like poisoning her to death. But why only a woman is only treated this way? Why not men? Why are they not held responsible when they have a wife at home and they still are going out with others?
I will take you back to Sara’s life. Upon knowing her previous life incident, her husband beat her. She was badly bruised and this situation of violence and brutality continued during her stay at his house. After all day of tireless work, in the end, she was subjected to physical torture and mental abuse. But then Saad decided to divorce her. He sent her back to her parents and told them a divorce letter is what she deserves. Her parents pleaded and even kneeled before him to change his decision, though the condition of her daughter was pitiful. It is not because they did not love their daughter but because they were unable to face society. The catcalls and the mockery for not raising their daughter properly were what they were unable to withstand.
Furthermore, they also wished a prosperous home for her. But Saad did not change his decision and eventually divorced her. Sara had gone into utter frustration and became hopeless with her life scenarios. Everyday relatives came to blame her. Even her other married sister refrained from meeting her. Hina’s in-laws thought that Sara would turn out a bad company and will result in a negative influence on Hina.
Pakistan: A Patriarchal Society
Meanwhile, a proposal of an elderly man came for Sara. Sara’s parents considered this proposal an escape from all the frustration and tensions faced by the whole family. They remarried Sara to Omair. But again life was not in her favor. Omair was a bad-tempered person. He wanted to complete his family and have children. But when after a year, when Sara did not have a baby, he started beating her. Although men are equally responsible for child fertility, the patriarchal society in Pakistan considers women the mother of all problems. He took her to various clinics but did not go himself for personal check-ups. The blame was again on Sara. She was again divorced and sent back to her home.
Her mother prays for her better future and his father also understands the pain. But when they see the ill reaction of the society and the way their daughter is trying so hard to cope with her life, they become really saddened. They did not want her to spend her life this way. They never dreamed of watching their daughter thinking of ways to end her life. The doll that used to play and brighten the house was filled with tears in her eyes. They could not see this! So is it not better to kill her in order to restore her honor and save her from these happenings?
Plain and Simple Murder
This is what most of the parents think. They do not believe in the choice of their siblings and to avoid such live examples, they try to kill them. But this is not the escape. This misogyny of perception needs to be ended. Lack of proper mentoring and social taboos of women to live a prescribed life entails parents to follow such actions. They don’t intend to do so but end up in an honor killing. What they forget is that Islam, the religion of Pakistan, outlines peace and prosperity.
The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) gave women the right to decide whom they want to marry. So by following the religion and basic human rights, this situation needs to end. There is absolutely a huge price that not only a girl will pay in terms of forgiving the ones who try to kill them in order to restore honor; but also the whole nation.
This way of thinking can be changed by preaching to them the religious perspective and by adopting strict laws against such crimes. The society in Pakistan should change their course and not treat women as a subject to their male member. Equality of rights should be practiced not only in the main cities but also the rural areas. And last but not least: emphasis must be paid to education to achieve a constructive society.