While divorce rates have risen meteorically in many Western countries and the mention of divorce or its consideration garners little to no response, the process typically receives a strong negative response on the other end of the map. In many South East Asian countries, in particular, Pakistan, the topic of divorce is a taboo that results in a degree of social stigma. This is because divorce in Pakistan is discouraged, especially in rural settings, due to various social expectations, conventional norms, and religious reasons. However, recently there has been a change in the divorce rates in Pakistan. They have significantly risen. This change may indicate that Pakistani society is experiencing many social and ideological shifts.This article explores these changes.
Divorce Statistics in Pakistan
The following are some trends related to divorce from the year 2014:
- Over 2,300 women have approached courts in the past two months for divorce (between July and September of 2014), mainly because of poor financial conditions (in marriage.)
- A clerk working at the marking branch of family court told "The Nation" (a current affairs newspaper) that around 150 divorce cases are filed daily by women.
- During the month of January, the marking branch of family court received a total of 2,300 applications, out of which 1,364 were divorce applications.
- According to official data, from February 2005 to January 2008, about 75,000 divorce cases were registered, while from February 2008 to May 2011, 124,141 divorce cases were registered.
Samina of Shahdara Town married Mushtaq five years ago and had a baby. However, her husband was an addict and used to beat her. He did not give her a single penny during the last two years of their marriage. As a result, she decided to file a suit for divorce.
— "Divorce Rate Surges." -The Nation (Newspaper)
The aforementioned examples suggest that some of the major causes of divorce may be unemployment, financial issues, and in some cases, violent marriages. However, most importantly, they highlight the changing attitudes of society. The increased number of divorces tell us that the process is no longer seen as a taboo by the vast majority of people in Pakistani society. Although the reasons for divorce mentioned are important to note, it is the improved status of women, their rising independence, and sense of self-awareness that have contributed to the increased number of divorces and brought common issues regarding marriage to the forefront of society's radar. The statistics, which show women as the decision-makers in divorce, support this claim to some extent.
These trends show that many women have recognized their rights and amassed enough self confidence to stand up for themselves when being treated unjustly by their spouses. Women are choosing to remain independent on their own terms rather than remain dependent on someone else and get subjected to unfair treatment or be denied what is rightfully theirs in marriage. These kinds of circumstances are likely to occur in forced marriages or in partnerships where the husband's masculinity is both fragile and brutal.
The fact that women are filing for divorce due to poor financial conditions or unfair division of responsibility in the household tell us that instead of remaining dependent on someone who cannot support them, contribute to the expenses, or give them their share, women choose to remain independent and support themselves by their own means. This indicates the rising courage and confidence of women in Pakistan, as well as the fact that a greater number of women each day are seeking employment in various spheres of the work sector.
The rise in the number of divorces indicates greater social acceptance of divorce. This implies that parents may now fully support their children who are seeking divorces, which is a significant change in the common societal response to divorce. Unmarried and divorced daughters might no longer be viewed or treated as burdens by outsiders and society in their parents' homes.
This increase in the number of divorces can also be linked to education. Many women, especially in urban areas, are now receiving equal education to men and are even out-performing them in schools. Thus, they are able to specialize in any subject of their choice and pursue any profession. This makes them prominent in industries such as medicine, fashion, entertainment, social services, etc., and this allows them to establish careers while being married at the same time. This enables their independence and financial security, and may result in a certain lack of desperation to save their marriage if it's deteriorating, thus, allowing them to opt for divorce instead. However, this may not be the case in rural areas, where education and employment opportunities are extremely scant for women, as well as for men to a certain extent.
In many Pakistani families, husbands and in-laws may prohibit women from working and pursuing a career after marriage. This old practice, when linked with greater educational opportunities for women and their growing prominence in the work place, as well as their rising self confidence and awareness, once again explain the rising rates of divorce. Women, who wish to continue working with no possible compromise, understanding, or support from their spouses and in-laws may opt for the complicated procedure of divorce in order to prioritize their careers. This explains the high number of divorces filed by women.
Although increased rates of divorce mean there are more broken homes and families in Pakistan, it indicates that single-parent families are no longer stigmatized and looked down upon. Apart from that, the very act of divorce, as well as probable reasons for its newfound frequency all show increased confidence and independence in women. Most importantly, the fact that women are now concerned about their equal rights and well-being enough to demand higher standards in marriage demonstrates their increased sense of self worth.
The statistics referenced and analyzed in this article were from an article titled "Divorce Rate Surges." This was published in "The Nation" (a Pakistani newspaper) on the 3rd of March, 2014.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2017 Fatema
Ashutosh Joshi from New Delhi, India on September 22, 2017:
Although a divorce isn't a good news, looking at the larger picture, however, there is definitely some positive to it. The growing awareness and moving beyond the social stigma, that certainly has been long overdue.