Marriage & Family
While many would quote a rise in nuclear family system as a reality, the situation in Pakistan is somewhat opposite to that. The urban centers of this country have witnessed a dramatic disintegration of joint family units into nuclear family setups, but this whole idea of living apart of your in-laws is still generally held quite despicable. One comes across a number of families living jointly that hail a middle-class and a lower middle-class background. Moreover, women are longing to have a home separate of their in-laws but are unable to because of increasing inflation, higher property rates, rent, job insecurity along with the social stigma that follows.
I personally interviewed many women before penning down this piece, and found repugnant stories surfacing. What can be concluded from those several versions of married women is that living with in-laws is generally not a problem but the expectations and responsibilities coming along are. Islam, which is the religion of majority Muslim population of Pakistan, emancipates a woman her choice to live with or apart of her in-laws.
According to Islamic teachings, a married woman is not bound to look after her husband’s immediate family and other relatives. She should serve them out from her own will but it is not obligatory for her to observe according to religion. However, what is widely observed is the blunt and rampant violation and repression of this right that religion imparts to women. Generally, girls are expected to fulfill responsibilities towards their in-laws that are naturally not their, but rather enforced upon them. Many young girls narrate the ordeal of their wedding proposal sessions, where their potential mother-in-laws had expressed their desires for a nursing daughter-in-law that is highly unacceptable for many women. Several human rights abuses continue to be committed against ‘unfaithful’ daughter-in-laws, who are often thrashed, verbally abused and worse, beaten to death.
The practice of idolizing a daughter-in-law as subservient to the family has brought in drastic results for the entire family system in Pakistan. People might never identify and consider, but this desire of controlling the children’s lives once they get married is a clear denial to their freedom to have a separate personal space and family.
A daughter-in-law is not meant to be a servant but our misogynistic social attitudes don’t let this bubble of injustice burst. Misogyny has led to the curtailed participation of women in political, social and economic processes of the country and have plunged most of them in the dark alleys of ignorance and injustice. Pakistani society, being a patriarchal one also expects a husband to ‘tame’ his wife well to guarantee that interminable services are provided to his family, which is completely wrong. In the light of Islamic teachings, a son holds the responsibility of tending his parents and he should not hand this obligation over to his wife. Sadly, talk of this and the other moment brings mounting disgrace for you.
Openness and flexibility must be two fundamental components of relationships so that the people involved do not lose the sense of their individuality and self-worth. Forced and obligatory respect might please an individual’s impulses for a short period of time but they bring in drastic effects in long-term. Forced respect also causes the true spirit of relationships to erode badly reducing them to mere formalities. One such reason of crumbling love and respect among relationships is this. Awareness and acceptability should be promoted among masses about protection of theirs and others rights. Religious scholars can play a positive role in involving people about grasping the essence of Islamic teachings regarding marriage and the rights of women.
A married woman demanding a separate space to exercise and implement her control over should not be looked down upon but instead encouraged as it truly helps promoting respect and love in relationships. People feel secure to see their rights being protected. We must understand that encroaching upon the liberties of others and the wish to exercise control over the weaker one only incite bitterness and hatred in society.