Divorce and women’s empowerment

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The relationship between men and women is perhaps the most complex phenomenon of nature. Psychologists and neuroscientists have sought to study and interpret why one sex behaves in a certain way and how the opposite sex reacts to that behavior.

For example, according to one 2015 study published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, researchers concluded that men experience the most jealousy over physical infidelity by their significant other of the opposite gender whereas women experience more jealousy over emotional infidelity by their partners.Still, there are certain other behaviors that are yet to be studied. Meanwhile, topics of toxic or fragile masculinity, feminism, and women’s empowerment have come to the fore as of late.

In Pakistan, we need more awareness of these current topics as a few recent tragic headlines suggest we have a weak grasp on them with much to be desired in the way of women’s empowerment.

In Lahore, a man recently assaulted his wife, the mother of his three children, after which she succumbed to resulting head injuries. The cause of his aggression stemmed from an argument the couple had. In a second news story out of Punjab’s Rawalpindi, a woman, upon discovering her husband’s intentions for a second marriage, attempted suicide and is responsible for the death of her daughter whom she also encouraged to consume poison.

Arguably, these two incidents relate to jealousy and rage as well as the inability of both genders to process the problems they experienced. Unfortunately though, in both cases, it was the women who were fatally or near-fatally impacted which suggests again, that women remain the more disadvantaged sex in Pakistan.

Now, in a contrary story coming out of another Muslim country, Kuwait, a woman divorced her husband of a few minutes after he blasted her and called her “stupid” for slipping while walking out of the court where they contracted their marriage. Suspicions aside that she perhaps acted intentionally to secure money from the state to go through with the marriage, the move was bold and one that Pakistani women can learn from. Critics might maintain that the woman was too extreme, but that extremeness is required for women in other countries to take charge of securing their own empowerment. Until women, especially many in Muslim countries, demand the respect they deserve and set examples, they will continue to be viewed as the lesser gender.

Interestingly, divorce rates are reasonably higher than expected in many Muslim countries such as Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Lebanon. It is also rising in Pakistan, though this finding remains to be studied further as limited data exists. One of reasons cited is that more women are entering the work force and are hence less dependent on spouses for financial support.

While divorce is still widely looked down upon in Pakistan, the greater participation of women in the economy is a positive development. Furthermore, this transition could mean that future marriages are built on mutual love and respect, rather than for financial dependence or exploitation – which would eventually work to drive down divorce rates.