A Commentary on Cultural Attitude towards Girls in Pakistan

I have always felt that the culture of our country treats girls in a way inferior to boys and imposes on them a certain way to behave and carry themselves. Girls shouldn’t be loud, they must not prance around and they must walk gracefully are just some of the rules forced on us. These not only snatch away the individuality of every girl but also leaves many of us discontent at a very young age. Although many girls are able to accept these norms easily and adapt to them with the thinking that this is just the way things are, there are some of us who try to resign to these norms but are programmed to do otherwise.

Let us start from birth. Women in our society have this unexplainable love for male children and more than half of them want their first child to be a boy. Even my own mother told me the other day that she also felt the same way (thank god she wasn’t disappointed) and my aunt cried at the birth of her third daughter. How stupid, don’t you think? If women want to have a child then they must keep in mind that they simply cannot control the child’s gender and being sad at the birth of a girl is downright nonsense. At least I am not one of those girls who are killed at birth or abandoned only because god made them a girl not a boy.

That’s just how boys are. Those girls who have brothers must have heard this sentence a thousand times. As I was growing up, there were many times when my brother used to tease me (unprovoked), pull my hair, scatter my toys and other such exertions. However the moment I retaliated, my mother who had been sitting there the whole time, would stop me and if I complained she would say the aforementioned phrase. You can bet that was very annoying. If that is just how boys are, then this is just how I am as well. Why are we girls always treated differently, and to be more precise, unjustly. Oh and don’t even get me started on household chores. Most boys aren’t ever asked to move muscle in the house. Any mess that they make is our job to clean up. Girls are taught to wash the dishes and help their mothers in the kitchen from a very young age and boys…well they are taught that it is okay to lay around all day and let your mothers and sisters wait on you. Being the rebel that I am, I simply could not and would not accept this and I protested to which I received the customary reply, “Aglay ghar jakar tumnay karna hai, ussnay nahi” (you will have to do these chores when you’re married not him). Isn’t it weird how most of these unfair norms have been imposed on us by our own mothers who once have been girls themselves? My mother always say that it is the man’s job to earn and the woman’s job to look after the house. Well many of my aunt’s friends are playing both roles while their good for nothing husbands lay around the house all day because that is what they have been taught since the very beginning.

As girls grow older they become more and more restricted. Boys enjoy their youth in the open air with their friends while us girls are kept in the house and barely allowed to go out with our friends. It is strange how gender discrimination almost always seems to favor boys. Boys hang out at shopping malls and restaurants while we are restricted to our friend’s house. We are told that we should not go out unnecessarily because men will watch. Should not these men have been taught to lower their eyes and respect women when they were younger instead of restricting us because of them? Then there comes religion. In my peer group there are many girls who are being pressurized by their parents to cover their heads while their own son goes wearing the skinniest shorts imaginable. I agree that covering our heads is an order from God, but following the Quranic verse, “Let there be no compulsion in religion”, girls must not be forced to do so.

Another thing which I am strongly against is the judgmental attitude of our society or rather the criteria of judgment. On my way back from school with my mother, we saw two girls and a guy walking together and my mother said that don’t these two girls have any shame, they are walking around with a boy and more over they are not wearing a dupatta (scarf). I said that he is walking with them too you know and about the dupatta, it is their choice. Thankfully I was able to convince my mother. You see my point? If both boys and girls do something that is considered wrong, people always question the girl’s character first because after all that is just how boys are, aren’t they? It’s funny how most of these judgmental people are women, not men.

In this regard I think that the west is better than us, where women are treated equally and brought up the same way as men. An example here is of my uncle who moved to and married in America and according to the culture of the Americans helped his wife in taking care of their child and even took turns in changing their child’s nappies. We Pakistanis must change our mindset and this change will only begin from us girls because when we will refuse to accept unfair cultural norms, we will groom our children accordingly and gradually we might be able to bring a change.

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