In the diverse society of Pakistani people, with comparisons ranging from those on caste to gender to religion, our notion of marriage is subdivided into multiple occasionally contradictive ideas. Climbing up the unfaithful ladder of social mobility distorts the central value of the term ‘marriage’ in Pakistan.
While marriage for the modern bourgeoisie might refer to an alliance of economically and financially blessed families and sometimes to a perception of love or attraction between the two individuals that are wed, those in the traditional, feudal Pakistanis might never even have had the opportunity to hear these observations of marriage. What matrimony means for these groups centers around three socially common factors, as of my perspective.
First, foremost, and most essential in the confirmation of matrimonial ties amongst our revered feudal superiors, is honour. Whilst honour, for a commoner, might mean ‘dignity’ and ‘respect’, it has another inherent context for our feudal friends that you might not have heard of before today. Honour, they say, is actually the idea of keeping their women on leashes, under their supreme control, away from the rest of the world, away from begherti.
What this notion implies to them is the practice of allocating their wife(s) to different, relatively easier tasks around the house, and then keep imposing upon them the trivialness of their jobs compared to the much more important skill they have (that of earning the money they feed upon). One moment your feudal husband will appreciate your companionship and reluctantly given affection, and the next moment that affection is your accusation: the evidence of your off-limits begherti.
A man whose wife does not robotically acquiesce to his opinions (that he states as universally accepted facts) is a man without honour. Any man whose wife talks of awareness and education is a man without honour. Any man with an independent daughter is a man without honour. Feminism is a dirty word: you must never corrupt your lips with it.
Why are tribal women said to be so much prettier than urban ones? Here’s a possible answer: the ones not blessed in the way of physical traits never appear on the scene. Men will marry pretty females, regardless of the public opinion of their own handsomeness. A women’s job is to sit still, look pretty. And if you are incapable of improving your dark complexion or your unattractive body, you stay out of sight, or you will get what you deserve.
So starting from Mustafa Khar, who wed Tehmina for her extravagant charisma and widely acknowledged beauty, to thousands of crowds of other men who seek beautiful wives that kiss up to their reputations, we have an entire feudal community obsessed with this one trait.
Just for an addition to your knowledge, inner beauty is a myth in our tribal system anyhow.
Here’s when we cut to the chase. Jahez¸ which most of us know about due to the tasteless stereotype created of it, also widely known as dowry, is a key element in the rigid tribal culture to keep under consideration when deciding which girl to marry. The basic flooring for the growth of this concept is the fact that the Prophet (pbuh) happened to give his daughter a modest dowry, including Yemeni gloves, goat hide, some dirhams, a pillow etcetera. No greed.
As I established before, the varied people in the Pakistani society all interpret this historical fact very confidently according to their own limited knowledge. What is common among the tribals from their own distorted assumptions is that Hazrat Fatima’s dowry was substantial. And so their women need to have an equally large dowry.
Imagine one female of 16 being married off to an influential man of 65 on the pretext that he will ‘keep her happy and wealthy’. Since she is barely bringing any dowry, she knows better than to deny the proposal, which if she did would be ignored anyway. The price of this beautiful girl is set, and on Friday, the sacred day of the week, she is given to the man for a good value of money. She prays for her friends, who are sentenced to a similar fate. Some of them might be lucky enough to actually give an opinion, though that would be highly unlikely, much less get the opinion acknowledged (that would be a fantasy). So with the absence of dowry, the 16 year old has just the advantage of beauty. And the chance to flaunt that she was sold at a higher price than many others. That, at the happiest, would be the life of the said female after her marriage. Until her spouse brings in the next wife. Then she will be discarded.
“Starting from zero, got nothing to lose” is not the slogan that works for tribal women. ‘Oppressed’ might not be the correct word for them thereof. What the men make them do, they follow. What has been drilled in them for decades and millenniums, they accept. What the rigid system advertises, they are obligated to adhere to. When you visit some tribal village in the north, you could lose bets on the probability of seeing women in public places, which by the way is null.
Marriage for us might be the milestone that begins a new life, or the fulfillment of some teenage fantasy of a happy life. But for them, for our friends imprisoned within the tentacles of our tribal norms, marriage is the bridge between one jail to another, between the heartlessness of your father and the cruelty of your husband. And that bridge is paved with pointy stones that say no to escape plans. For these women, there is no such thing as paternal love; gender equality is a joke at the expense of their personality.
All their lives are subsequent chapters of one novel, with occasional twists and modifications for the immoral entertainment of their men. For these tribes, marriage is an increase in property. For these tribes, there is a single gender. Male.