Marium enthusiastically informed her friends that proposal of an engineer came for her who’s settled in America and she would fly to New York in a month after Nikah.“What a lucky girl! May God bless all damsels in the same way, “an old woman commented in her Mayoon function. Independent and prosperous life in a land of opportunities with new life partner was a dream come true for Marium like many Pakistani girls. So she left her homeland and family for a fresh start with lots of apprehensions and dreams.
Her divorce only after a year shocked everyone. Depressed and shattered, she returned with bitter memories. The friends and family members who had once envied her now treated her scornfully. She passed through the most traumatic experience of her life. There was no one to protect her from severe beatings and mental torture. Initially she blamed herself and tried her best to please her husband, who had adopted drinking, gambling and nightclubs as a lifestyle. She suffered everything silently unless her husband brutally beaten her and aborted her child. Even then she wanted to save her marriage and was hesitant to visit her parents back home. However, she was forcefully sent back and soon received divorce papers from her husband.
Nighat’s pretty and educated. She’d rejected many proposals. “Traveling is my passion and the only way to fulfill it is to marry a guy settled abroad,” she argued with her parents. Ultimately she met her Mr. Right. Rizwan, a computer engineer in Canada, visited Pakistan to attend a family marriage. They had wide age difference. However she overlooked it for her dream life. Nighat’s parents didn’t have enough time to inquire about Rizwan so a family friend was contacted on phone for information and soon they tied a nuptial knot.
After the honey moon, Rizwan went back. Nighat had to wait for two years to get visa and join him. She was extremely shocked on her arrival in Canada when she discovered that Rizwan was already married and had two kids from her first wife. She didn’t give up and stayed there despite threats and maltreatment from first wife of her husband. But when her spouse refused to divorce his first wife and assaulted her frequently, she had to come back empty-handed.
Young generation fascinated by larger than life media images wants to live anywhere except their own country. Parents also overlook many drawbacks in case of foreign proposals including age, family, cast and even values for better future of their children.
Mrs. Humaira Khalid, owner of a marriage bureau in Karachi, says that green-card holder girls and boys are hot cakes in the native marriage market. Most parents prefer less qualified, middle-aged overseas grooms for their girls than local ones. Boys who want to settle abroad and are looking for shortcuts also go for average-looking green card holders than Pakistani girls.
Normally marriage bureaus and matchmakers don’t take the responsibility of overseas proposals. Even then parents and youth willingly take risks and gamble their lives for greener pastures. Foreign ka Rishta is considered a blessing bestowed by God and is readily accepted as a lifetime opportunity. Mostly local parties don’t have enough time and resources to get required details and in fear of missing a good proposal, they take hasty decisions.
There is no doubt that overseas Pakistani community includes many talented physicians, engineers, computer programmers and entrepreneurs. They enjoy a luxurious life and travel back very often to the motherland. They are considered the privileged class with blue passport and foreign exposure. Relatives at homeland receive them warmheartedly and entertain them at their best to get sponsorship or marry their children in the family. Their young generation is considered a perfect lot with foreign degrees and modern lifestyle.
However, reality might be far different from the picture perfect projected by most people.Pakistani families abroad are facing serious problems of domestic violence, alcohol and substance abuse, marital problems and generation gap that are closely linked with culture shock, unemployment and financial crisis. From just one organization dealing with domestic violence in the south Asian community in the 1960s, there are now dozens of organizations scattered across the United States that shows the rising family malaise in the South Asian community.
Irrespective of class, education and financial status, women are facing almost the same dilemma in most immigrant families. A founder of an advocacy group for South Asian women in America says that she often encounters rich lady doctors and computer professionals coming with bruises and black eyes. These women with high degrees and respectable position in the society are not even allowed to handle their accounts by their abusive husbands.
According to a case reported in Apna Ghar, “A young Pakistani medical college graduate marries a promising engineer in the United States. Her husband locks her in their Chicago apartment everyday while he goes to work. He takes all phones in the house with him. When he returns home, instead of treating his lonely young wife nicely, he beats her.
Offenses against women are varied from beatings to verbal abuse, threats of exile and financial control. Though it’s not the norm and there are many decent families abroad, which prefer marrying their children in Pakistan. However fraud and breakups in inter-country marriages have alarmingly increased.People are cheated not only by strangers but also by their own blood relations.
Huma and Shagufta are living examples of it. Huma was engaged to her cousin who went abroad for higher studies. She waited almost eight years for him who delayed marriage on one pretext or the other. Later they discovered that he was happily married for three years and also had a child.
Shaugafta had rather worse experience. She was married to son of her father’s friend. Due to old relations, they had no doubts about the young man. After Nikah on telephone, she flew to Australia to reside with her husband. Initially he treated her very nicely but soon she realized that he had illicit relations with wrong people. He was involved with other girls and also pushed her to entertain his friends. When she refused, he made her life a hell. She was not allowed to go out, mingle or mail to anyone without his permission. Luckily she was able to contact a friend when her husband was out on his work. Ultimately her parents reached to take her back and registered a divorce case against him. This way her dream marriage came to an end.
Most overseas Pakistanis require rather housekeepers than wives and they prefer Asian girls because they are expected to be docile, patient and excellent household worker. Others are caught between two cultural planes. A woman’s dual roles of home-maker and wage earner put pressures on her, add to it the demands of a traditional South Asian husband. When the woman rebels and demand equal rights to work, socialize and groom, differences arise. In absence of family support, women become more vulnerable and dependent on their partners who treat them as they like
Adjustment in an alien society with a different environment, life style and priorities is not an easy task for most of the girls and even for boys who are pampered at home. They feel isolated and misfit. In this situation, they need their partner’s cooperation. But most Asian males abroad are too ambitious and demanding to spare time for emotional needs of their wives. Thus a large majority of Pakistani and Indian women, especially house- wives suffer from depression. They hardly have any outlet, closed friends or family, to share their feelings. It’s perhaps the root-cause of failure of inter-social marriages in most cases.
Besides the role of Asian families and community is not very positive in this regard. Pakistani women face abuse not only from their husbands but also from in-laws. When Mumtaz Akhter joined her new family in New York she was treated as a maid who had to take care of all the housework. Her husband, brother-in-law, his wife and kids would never take her along on their social outings and neither was she introduced to any of their friends who visited their house. When her husband blatantly took on a girlfriend, Akhter walked out and turned to an NGO for help. “She felt suicidal and worthless and went through a lot of psychological treatment.
Hamida, founder of Hamdard organization providing assistance to Asian Community, says, “Over the last ten years there has been a mushrooming of abuse compounded by the extended family.” She blames dual jobs, shifting of the balance of power and cultural pressures for breaking up marriages in Asian families.
According to a British report, Asian victims of domestic violence are suffering in silence because of language barriers, fear and the attitudes of Asian males. Women, particularly those unable to speak English were in the worst condition.Labor Member of Parliament (MP) Anne Cryer, who wants a crusade against violence on Asian women, says half the Asian women in her Yorkshire constituency of Keighley speak little or no English. They were brought to Yorkshire fromPakistan after marriage. They don’t know how to achieve their rights and handle their violent husbands in an alien society. Mostly mothers-in-laws get involved in beatings, or at least in covering up beatings. Pakistani community abroad usually covers up domestic violence. Women who suffer are targets of shame because people think they have done something wrong.
The agencies that are supposed to help Asian women seeking escape are not equipped to deal with the problem. They need to work together and be more accessible to Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Indian women. Asian and bilingual staff, safe spaces and support groups are needed to make it effective. Besides, the behavior of abusive men needs to be challenged and an education program is required.
Besides parents and youth must realize the fact that every foreign proposal can’t be ideal and needs to be investigated thoroughly before approved. Life abroad is not a bed of roses. It’s rather more difficult and demanding in absence of community and family support. In our country, majority of us lives like royals. We have maids, sweepers and drivers to serve us. But abroad people have to do all cleaning, washing, cooking and grocery themselves. They are treated as second-class citizen and live a mechanical life at the cost of cultural and identity crisis that leaves irretrievable imprints on them