Divorce: Mirrored Differences or a Stigmatised Dogma?


*Names have been changed to ensure anonymity.


This is a subject I’ve been meaning to address since quite a while. I feel the need to express my concern regarding divorce in the Pakistani society as too often, it is considered a taboo. Speaking of divorce or being a ‘divorcee’ is treated like an unforgivable sin in our society and while it should ideally be taken as the last resort, it should not be stigmatised regardless of the circumstances.

“It’s amazing how unpredictable life can be…I was married for 15 years, we were a happy family – two kids, a financially stable household, free from everyday bickering (except for the usual meltdowns), but when things between me and my husband crippled, everything came crashing down along with it” says Sara.

Sara was a loving wife, fostering mother and a responsible homemaker, yet even after pulling at many strings there was no way she could have saved her failing marriage.  The result was: Divorce. For many, this term is a forbidden one – much to the extent that it is considered a sin. Rightfully so, the society we reside in treats it like a stigma.

For her, this word meant her household being torn apart in two pieces with labels and tags of ‘this is mine, that’s yours’. And for the society, it is simply a symbol of disgrace. The question that arises here is; Why is it associated with negativity? Why can’t it be seen as two people failing to be compatible and so; for the betterment of their respective lives, they part ways?

It is an understood fact that we are living in a society bound by religious beliefs (however subjective they may be) and Islam has strict inhibitions regarding the concept of separation, however; what does a person do when faced with circumstances that leave no choice but to get decoupled? For Sadia, a 35 year old born and bred in Karachi, her fear of being stamped by the social stigma label got the best of her.

She says: “My marriage was an arranged marriage; my in-laws were well educated people they treated me worse than animals. My mother-in-law used to warm metallic spatulas (used to flip chappatis) on flames and put those piping hot plates on my arms and wrists, the bruises on my skin still remind me of the suffering I have faced. A month after my marriage, I came to know that my husband’s sexual orientation was not straight, even after discovering this truth, I stayed with him for 5 years.”

There are many girls out there just like Sadia who have suffered a great deal. The only reason she faced that prolonged torture was because she like most girls in our society, was afraid to tell her parents and let them down. She knew that if her parents found out about her failing marriage, they would be disgraced and condemned by their kith and kin. The thought of having your daughter get a divorce is tragic; however, what people fail to see is that because of these typecast images that we ourselves have created for us, we have complicated our lives.

Sadia sacrificed her well being for the sake of her parent’s dignity, she tolerated extreme cruelty, to the extent that after her separation, she had to go through therapy. Had she communicated with her parents, had she not been pressurised by the societal norms regarding ‘divorce’ she could have saved herself.

Rukhsana (Sadia’s mother) was in tears the moment she was asked about her daughter’s separation. She said that the kind of pain and suffering her daughter had gone through, it was a lesson for all women to realize that they did not deserve to be treated like that, that they had the right to question, they were in no way supposed to suppress themselves for the sake of what people would say about them, the idea of being pressurized by such matters is fatal to say the least.

Even though, divorce is still considered a stain – be it on a woman or man, it is far more stigmatised in the case of the woman than the man. We as human beings have to think beyond our comfort zones and stop complicating each other’s lives by constricting ourselves to a box. It is the stereotypes that we have created that compel men and women to make choices that can be fatal not only for themselves but for their children as well. The effects of decoupling on children is a completely different ballgame altogether and requires discussion at length.

The thought that a woman is completely stained for the rest of her life after leaving her spouse should be shunned. It is opinions such as these that restrict women from making choices that they are entitled to make when the need be, and by no means should a woman be forced into a relationship. Women in our society need to educate themselves regarding the rights they have as a woman.

Most women do not even know about the conditions of a “Nikah Nama” and that they can have the right to give divorce. It is important for women to know, and teach themselves the birthrights they are entitled to, as this is the only way they can rise against social oppression.

Women like Sara and Sadia are living examples of incidents that give us a better insight on our own understanding of relationships and the concept of ‘decoupling’. They are there to make people comprehend the difficulties that sometimes lead to terrible situations – circumstances that lead to separation and then finally divorce. This by no means imply that separation is being advocated as being positive, It just simply means that sometimes it has to be accepted as a part of life, and rather than condemning it, it should be understood with another perspective, preferably a wider one – one which is free from prejudices.

While in some terrible cases leaving your spouse is the only option, one should understand that marriage is a sacred institution that works with constant effort and compromise as a team and as an individual and it should be respected at all levels. Marriage isn’t just between two people, it’s between two families, and it is a sanctified bond that should be cherished. Women shouldn’t misuse their rights to their benefit and men shouldn’t exercise dominance where not required.

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