In Pakistan, one’s life revolves around what is socially acceptable or unacceptable. Growing up, a person is expected to agree to whatever he is being told, to comply with whatever decisions are made for him, to silently nod at what the ‘elders’ of the family think is right.
Before I start, I’d like to make clear that though the situation is improving somewhat, we still live in a way more primitive world than we should. The main problem we need to tackle is for our older generation to listen and understand the younger one.
This system has been in place for as long as anyone can remember and only a very small group of people have had the courage to speak out, despite some of them meeting horrific ends. Putting your foot down in the face of such opposition as your family is a very difficult thing to do in Pakistan where the majority of one’s social life consists of family, including cousins, aunts, uncles and the whole bunch.
People are somewhat used to living like this, but in this day and age, where one has access to what happens over the entire globe, our younger generations need their own space and demand the right to their own opinions. Where lots of families have been understanding and have recognized what is called for, most have been unyielding, with egos overcoming common sense. Children have resorted to sneaky ways to accomplish what they couldn’t have had they discussed it with their families.
Being an Islamic Republic, at least by name, Islamic values and morals are given their due importance. Nothing is forced, things like the hijab are not made compulsory as they are in some other Islamic states, but there are a couple of issues which, traditions combined with religious obligations, have become a social norm, and sadly, an issue of ‘honour’.
For instance, segregation is preferred. The strange thing about the way it is observed is that it builds to the frustration of the youth, questions like why can’t I talk to him? or what is so bad about hanging around with a girl? pop up in their minds as the segregation followed in Pakistan is not absolute separation. Girls and boys will share the same classrooms, the same buses, the same cafeterias, but they just will not talk to each other. This introduces a rather awkward situation because if people do eventually break that social taboo and talk to the other gender, the older generations immediately flash them the red light.
This, naturally, leads to an irritation invisible to the ‘elders’ who make all the ‘right’ decisions for the youth.
With the rising LGBT support around the world, Pakistan has seen its own LGBT cases number higher than ever before. The funny thing is, our elder generation will swear to this not being the case, as religiously and culturally it is not accepted.
But where there’s a will there’s a way, right? Men and women will marry whoever the family approves of, because marriage is another decision that only the ‘elders’ can make, though they try to make sure the people they are being betrothed to are like them. As a result, we have couples who live heterosexual lives in public but homosexual ones in reality, and this double minded society of people can only lead itself to disturbing consequences.
The question that we face is, though, will the obvious oblivion really solve what issues we have? Are we not living in a rather hypocritical little bubble? We’ve advanced from primitive thinking but we haven’t let go of our egotistical supposition that all is well as long as the elders are obeyed. Our elders try to implement religion to enforce what they believe is the definition of honour; they do not speak of what is religiously right or wrong, and do not listen when the youth tries to tell them about it. So do they really know what is best?
Our society, unfortunately, is still quite patriarchal, with men usually exploiting religion to their advantage, forgetting the whole package. Strangely, the same men who rule the household will turn into the very perverted souls that they try to keep their women ‘safe’ from when they walk out into the street. Is that really fair? A woman, no matter what she looks like, will be subjected to stares and cat calls. This isn’t even anything startling anymore because everyone is so accustomed to it.
Why be accustomed to something so gross?
Now the plot twist thickens, though. These same women will go home and still defend their sons and give them a preferential treatment! They will pray for their brothers, spoil them in the littlest ways and shower them with praise and love.
Yes, our world makes very little sense.
How do we get our elders to listen and sympathise? To think beyond what they feel is good and a happy solution to what is otherwise unacceptable to their, at times, absurd social standards? To be honest, I’m not so sure how myself, but to speak out in hopes of catching their attention might be one way. Philosophies ingrained over lifetimes are hard to shake, but bringing acceptability and acknowledgement is what is required at this moment. How long will it take? We have to try and find out.
Revels is a Pakistani student, blogger & contributing writer at The Conversation Room.
You can visit her excellent blog here: