Divorce reminds most people of things like tearful nights alone, long custody battles, and villainous mistresses. But when we see headlines in Reuters like “Pakistani women turn to once-taboo divorce to escape abuse,” divorce beings to remind us of different things. Divorce begins to remind us of things like women’s rights, societal change, and culture clashes.
Divorce of Yore
The institution of divorce has been alive basically since the institution of marriage, but that does not mean divorce has always been a widely accepted practice. For hundreds of years religious institutions have warned against the evils of breaking a union ordained by a higher power. This foreboding, sinister perception has marred many people’s idea of what divorce is.
Religious institutions have not been proponents of divorce because their goal is to emphasize and preserve the integrity of marriage, and maybe for good reason. The high divorce rate indicates either people are not entering into marriage with the right perception, or people now feel entitled to seek true happiness. It’s very possible the reason for the high divorce rate is a mixture of the two, but may we suggest another partial cause?
The Femme Fatale
Let’s be blunt: Anything related to relationships, marriage, or divorce eventually meets with the gender question. Throughout the course of U.S. history, increases in the divorce rate coincidentally occur during periods marked by female influence or achievement. At the beginning of the 20th century, divorce rates began to be recorded, so it’s no surprise there appears to be an increase when the comparative rate was basically an estimated 5%.
A divorce rate spike was recorded in the 1940’s, in which women took over the U.S. workforce while the men were called to fight in W.W. II. Then, in the 1950’s era of domestic bliss the divorce rate lowered until the feminist movement made a great push in the late 1960’s. Beginning in the 1970’s, when the issue of gender equality and no-fault divorce was championed, the divorce rate plateaued at about 50%.
The divorce rate and the female condition in society are two elements of history so closely connected it’s practically an irrefutable fact. So what does a headline like “Pakistani women turn to once-taboo divorce to escape abuse” really mean? It means another great step for the feminist movement.
The Reuters article brings both pride and fear to the hearts of women everywhere. The slow growing trend for Pakistani women to seek out divorce seems to the average American a non-issue. But in a country internally conflicted between religious extremism and modernizing religious values, growth in any civil area is cause to celebrate.
However, Pakistani women filing for divorce are not only facing social stigma. In 2011 alone, there were 1,636 “honor killings” in Pakistan; these killings occur when a Pakistani woman does anything to “dishonor” her family, such as file for divorce. A popular singer, Ghazala Javed, was the victim of an “honor killing” in June 2011. The late Javed asked for a divorce when she found her new husband was already married, only to be shot and killed along with her father.
But not all is lost in Pakistan. In the past decade, the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics recorded women in the workforce grew from 5.69 million to 12.11million. Based on the recognized correlation between civil trends and gains for women, Pakistani women have a bright future to look forward to if they can survive the present.