‘I am not beyghairat!’

Published: May 26, 2014
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The writer is an actor, an anchor and a model. She is currently the host of ‘Morning with Juggun’ on PTV Home and can be reached via twitter @JuggunKazim

The writer is an actor, an anchor and a model. She is currently the host of ‘Morning with Juggun’ on PTV Home and can be reached via twitter @JuggunKazim

There are some conversations one never forgets. This is one such conversation I had about a week ago.

Me: So what does your fiancée do?

Person X: Nothing.

Me: What will she do after you guys get married?

Person X: She will be at home with my mother, of course.

Me: Well, you work crazy hours and often the weekend also, so how will she keep herself busy? Why don’t you encourage her to get a job or something?

Person X: I am not a beyghairat! Our women do not work. I would never allow it!

The word beyghairat stuck in my head. I gave my friend Ejaz Haider, a famous journalist and television anchor, a call and asked him to explain the word to me in English. This is what he said: “Beyghairat has a particular meaning that no word in English can really capture. The closest that comes to it is ‘dishonourable’. But in reality, beyghairat is a combination of dishonourable, debased and contemptible.”

Between Person X’s statement and Ejaz’s definition, I was angry at many levels. First, I was angry at the idea that the husband is dishonoured by his wife working. Second, I was angry at the assumption that a married woman is a piece of property with no will of her own. Lastly, I was angry at the thought that the husband gets to ‘allow’ or ‘disallow’ what his wife gets to do, as if she was a disobedient child.

What century are we living in? Are we really supposed to tell half our country not to work so as not to hurt their husbands’ egos?

Pakistan is not an easy country to live in, no matter which part of the economic spectrum you occupy. Given how expensive life has become, more and more families are becoming dual-income households. How are we expected to progress as a nation if women are treated like pets that need permission to even use the bathroom?

By all means, a woman should stay home; but only and only if she wants to. I have many friends that are homemakers by choice and they love it. I have the utmost respect for the fact that they chose their family over a career. My problem is only with those who say that women cannot have careers.

From any perspective, how is it okay for someone to treat another person with such disrespect and disregard? So far as I can see, Person X’s phobia stems from an insecurity that if his wife-to-be is empowered and financially strong, she might just realise just how low of a man her husband is.

Another reason typically given by desi men is that “we trust our wives but we don’t trust the people out there. We know how other men look at working women.” What they mean is that if women leave the house to work, they may then leave the house for another man.

Frankly, I don’t care what men worry about; putting women in a gilded cage is never the answer. We have to move beyond the stage where a man’s honour depends upon whether his life partner works or not. Women have ghairat too. And that ghairat depends upon how they live their lives, not on how they reflect their husbands’ lives.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 26th, 2014.

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Reader Comments (38)

  • May 26, 2014 - 1:55AM

    So the ‘Beyghairat’ ..troglodyte may have been wearing a suit
    and a necktie, but he exposed his mindset to the author. A
    mindset akin and similar to India’s. It’s like the Indians. They wear
    good clothes, have some money in their pockets but are without
    shoes. Or they wear sandals with a suit, because the feet hurt.
    Not used to shoes. Rather,..the Indian mindset is in the 19th. century.

    Recommend

  • ali
    May 26, 2014 - 2:19AM

    It’s well written , lucid .I wasn’t expecting so.

    Secondly why not ask the guy .. wth is he doing on an interview with a working woman .. slamming that guy out of the show would have been a statement.

    Ghairat is difficult and vague ..

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  • Faizan
    May 26, 2014 - 2:23AM

    Middle class has gone past this dilemma because weakening economy twisted their arm and the esteemed ‘ghairat’ vanished faster than an eye blink, Wives are no more confined to their houses as exquisite pets. Govt. can make laws to limit admissions in engineering and medicine disciplines to only those girls who submit a surety bond of working in industry after getting their degrees. The tenure should be 10 years at least.
    And strict implementation of anti-harassment laws should also be ensured.

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  • Chaudhry Z. Ahmad
    May 26, 2014 - 6:05AM

    I wonder the author doesn’t know the meanings of beyghairat in Urdu and she had to seek the assistance of another gentleman to explain to her the meanings of this word in English despite the fact the author is an actor, model and a TV anchor of Urdu language in Pakistan. Doesn’t the author know the norms of the Pakistani society when it comes to relationship of husband and wife? It’s a combination of cultural values and religious injunctions. The religion as explained by the ulema allows the husband to dictate to his wife. The author better consult any religious scholar on the matter!

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  • water bottle
    May 26, 2014 - 6:59AM

    @Swat wala:

    “So the ‘Beyghairat’ ..troglodyte may have been wearing a suit
    and a necktie, but he exposed his mindset to the author. A
    mindset akin and similar to India’s. It’s like the Indians. They wear
    good clothes, have some money in their pockets but are without
    shoes. Or they wear sandals with a suit, because the feet hurt.
    Not used to shoes. Rather,..the Indian mindset is in the 19th. century.”

    Shoes…sandals?

    Seriously?

    Hahahaha. I actually enjoyed your comment, having missed George Bush’s non sequitur for a while.

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  • May 26, 2014 - 7:15AM

    @Swat wala:

    Excuse Me?

    How did you manage to connect it to Indians?

    Please revisit your remarks.

    SS

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  • May 26, 2014 - 8:17AM

    @Faizan:
    You are a prime example of skewed thinking. A woman as a citizen,
    has a right to do what she pleases, with her degree. She does not
    have to sign a 10 year surety bond. She is free. Women, after all, do
    more. Work, take care of the children, run the household,…everywhere.
    Please remove yourself to Saudia. Immediately.

    Recommend

  • May 26, 2014 - 8:31AM

    @Chaudhry Z. Ahmad:
    Looks like you are still in the 7th. or 8th. century.
    The author consulted another anchor/well known personality
    to reinforce that she arrived at the definition with a consensus.
    Perhaps, everyone has their own perception of Beyghairat.
    Please, don’t forget to water your camel.

    Recommend

  • bagherat
    May 26, 2014 - 8:38AM

    firstly the writer hasn’t pointed out the all the circumstances behind the objection.
    secondly i can share my own experience as i used to be more vociferous for women’s job.but what i experienced in my 3 organizations that most of the women working there have become maligned….definitely betraying their husbands! how i would let my wife to work in such a society!

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  • Syeda KAzmi
    May 26, 2014 - 9:50AM

    I don’t understand one thing, if a man is of the anti-working women mindset then why to marry him in the first place? See, man has a right to have his opinion as much as a woman. If i want to pursue a career, I should marry a man who understands. Referring to the incident author has shared, the guy is firm on his thinking and is even vocal about it before marriage, he is not deceiving her by holding on his views to later deal with.. I am not generalizing here, but I have known girls who get married to guys for money or love or anything knowing his views categorically and later on they complain about freedom, career blah blah.. If you have accepted a relationship knowing all the facts, then don’t make a fuss later…

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  • Asif
    May 26, 2014 - 10:07AM

    Don’t understand what the author’s mean by desi men?. Hope so we all are desi! Second, I agree with most of the concerns raised by the author, but to capture this typical mentality, one need to write/translate these peices into our national language, i.e. Urdu. Think about that.

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  • gulmina
    May 26, 2014 - 10:31AM

    @bagherat working women are having affairs with men, so there are 2 culprits… Why blame only the women? It didn’t stop you from working.

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  • Syed Irfan Ali
    May 26, 2014 - 10:47AM

    Very well written Juggun!!!! Totally agree with Swat wala that everyone has it’s own perception about the word beyghairat. I can tell you for some people man accompanying a woman shopping in a market not wearing a burqa may be beyghairat even though the woman might be wearing a full Pakistani dress with her head covered with a dupatta or a chador.

    Don’t understand what connection does this have with Indians????

    Any by the way asking someone English meaning of an Urdu word is absolutely ok to make yourself more clear about the word on which you’re going to write an article!!!!

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  • Shakir Lakhani
    May 26, 2014 - 11:35AM

    @Syeda KAzmi: Most Pakistani girls don’t have a choice: they are programmed to marry the men chosen by their elders. As for women not being allowed to work, if you go into the rural areas, you will see most women working in the fields (while some of their men-folk are smoking pot at home). Apparently this “beyghairat” thing doesn’t matter at all in rural areas. It’s only in the cities that men are concerned about women working alongside men, though even in many factories, women outnumber the men.

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  • Arsha
    May 26, 2014 - 12:17PM

    @bagherat:
    So basically u can’t even trust your wife to be loyal to you. Great foundation for marriage! Secondly considering your experience many men wd also be having affairs, so your wife may have the same issue…. Wd u give up your job?

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  • Rakhshanda
    May 26, 2014 - 12:17PM

    @bagherat: If you cannot allow your wife to work in such a society, I am confused as to why you choose to work in such a ‘society’ yourself. Are you saying that a woman is more likely to be swayed towards beyghairti than a man? Or that it simply doesn’t matter if a man is ‘beyghairat’?

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  • Rama Ratnam
    May 26, 2014 - 12:34PM

    It is surprising that young people find gender inequality to be such a novelty that they want to write about it and express their outrage. The author must lead a very sheltered life. The article labors on the obvious and is completely devoid of any form of sophisticated analysis or reasoning. It is like reading a grade school essay.

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  • WomenProtectionBill
    May 26, 2014 - 1:08PM

    The Best solution to all these problems r women Protection bill, Where no women in any organization is dependant on Man, And 0 cross gender couple isolated interaction toleratence,

    Isolated Interaction for example: Couple sitting in Car in deserted Parking, and Car moves in XYZ direction
    Couple sitting in Park at isolated Place
    Couple hidden in Bush and bush is fluttering without wind.
    etc.

    Recommend

  • Parvez
    May 26, 2014 - 1:48PM

    Excellent, well written and I must agree with what you have said.
    On the subject of women working and the ghairat factor in Pakistan…..you have completely ignored the elephant in the room……the misuse of religion, intermingled with culture combined with a self serving hypocritical aura.

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  • Anees
    May 26, 2014 - 2:47PM

    One thing I would like to mention here, that why we ignore the role of housewives. Is it the only way to go out and work….. Housewives role is more crucial and critical but so called modern women like the respected author encourage women to go out and work and these type of people totaly ignore the role of house wife and they discourage to become house wife.

    Housewives role is to prepare and develop the coming generation is it a negligible role????

    Please do not present a picture that women should go out and work… it is not the only way….it is against our religious aspects to go out and work, if it is not required……

    Women should focus on development of coming generation as it is most important than to go out and work…..

    Please so called modern people….. do not create confusion…. if you want to do modeling, acting or anything it is your decision…. but do not try to justify your wrong thoughts…..Recommend

  • Shakir Lakhani
    May 26, 2014 - 3:13PM

    @SS: Because today is a historic day (prime ministers meeting after so many years) and most Pakistanis are preoccupied with India and Indians!

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  • mak
    May 26, 2014 - 4:40PM

    really nice artile.women and men both are equal.they should be given same rights as of men.

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  • Chaudhry Z. Ahmad
    May 26, 2014 - 4:47PM

    @Swat wala:

    You didn’t understand properly what is said in the comment. It in fact is a comment on the innocence of the author and a comment on the prevalent cultural and religious values in the Pakistani society. It’s not a question of 7th or 8th century. It’s question – how the Pakistani society is going to tackle this social issue while the religious leaders are preaching the dependence of the women folk on MEN in the light of the holy book, according to these religious people. First re-examine and agree to reinterpret what is being interpreted of the scriptures and the issue will vanish as has vanished in the West. Otherwise you’ll keep living in the 7th century even if the rest of world has progressed into the 50th century.

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  • Ramo
    May 26, 2014 - 7:07PM

    Allow me to share my two cents….

    Well written piece Juggun but it misses one point. The biggest fear in a desi urban middle class man’s mind regarding whether his wife works or not is the fear of her economic independence. Imagine this…suppose I am working in a middle class job making Rs. 80,000 a month. Because I bring in this money, I am the king…i want my chai when I want. If I want murgh chana for dinner, I must have my murgh chana even at a 1 hour notice because “that’s what the responsibility of a woman is”. What I fear most in an urban middle class society is that my wife gets a job (probably decent if she is educated) and then starts to question my commands. How will I live without my murgh chana and chai and crisply ironed clothes if she starts working? Much more than the fear of immorality, I think what middle class men fear most is a loss of authority in the house. Perceived immorality of the woman and the fact that ‘it’s a really bad world out there’ is just the simplest brain-less argument that they can come up with.

    As a reader pointed out, women in rural areas work. They do so because the men have such a hold over them that they would make them work and obey their whims even if it means that the woman works 20 hours a day.

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  • Chaudhry Z. Ahmad
    May 26, 2014 - 7:15PM

    I replied to the reply of ‘Swat wala’ on my comment but my reply was not allowed to appear in your paper. Isn’t it strange?

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  • Rex Minor
    May 26, 2014 - 9:26PM

    Since ET has decided not to publish my detailed comments, suffice it to say that ‘HONOUR’ is indeed the definite translation of ‘Ghairat’ and is explained in the Inter net. Its application, however, varies depending upon the cultural and traditional background of people..

    Rex Minor

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  • Hani Abidi
    May 27, 2014 - 12:04AM

    @bagherat: Don’t you think men working in “that society” does the same damage? Men can get involved in outside marriage relationships just like women you have accused? Thus screwing up their weddings? Stay home solution?

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  • dhoom2
    May 27, 2014 - 12:44AM

    “Another reason typically given by desi men is that “we trust our wives but we don’t trust the people out there.”

    Please replace desi with Pakistani/Muslim… Because Hindus/Christian/Sikhs here in India are quite progressive. Women here work along with their husbands, drive bikes/cars, something which is not seen in any Islamic countries…
    None of the Hindu guys see their wives bring dishonor to their family, if they work.. This attitude is a thing of the past.

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  • Mujtaba Haider
    May 27, 2014 - 4:24AM

    Well, Person X may have feared a situation where a certain ‘somebody’ could gain so much independence at the expense of having to see through a divorce and then have her child being brought up by another man! Wisdom plays huge a role in Pakistani society, albeit with intense paranoia, but such intense concern for keeping up appearances are often well understood.

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  • Changazi
    May 27, 2014 - 1:30PM

    Lets hypothetically accept that typical pakistani culture (housewives role etc) has the best upbringing results……..why then are Pakistanis behind the developed countries on almost all important indexes? Does that mean our population is weak because of poor upbringing?

    The World Bank statistics (2009-2013) show that Pakistan has a total labor force of approx 64 million (men and women included). Why is this number so small considering our total population……where are the other “ghairmand men”….. are they still being brought up by their mothers and fed by their fathers? Cant anyone else see the problem here? Pakistan needs to grow its labor force…..kids need to take care of themselves sooner (both male and female). Otherwise, the country will continue with its economic free fall.

    And I am sure…religious people would agree that “bad economics” lead to more crimes.

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  • Rex Minor
    May 27, 2014 - 2:19PM

    What the ET mod decided not to print, is now actual in front of the Lahore High court! Honour killing, the woman being the victim!

    Rex Minor

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  • Fahad
    May 27, 2014 - 4:16PM

    yaaw…boring article stopped reading half way through.

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  • pnpuri
    May 27, 2014 - 5:38PM

    I belong to Punjab ( India ) but probably BEGHARAIAT is beyond my comprehension. But to me it means preaching chivalry and practising chauvinism.

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  • Rex Minor
    May 27, 2014 - 7:18PM

    @pnpuri:

    Your response is the honourable one Sir, and should’nt surprise anyone.

    Rex Minor

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  • Not Surprised
    May 28, 2014 - 1:08AM

    No one called you a beyghairat, you are just making it up. That is much ado about nothing.

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  • Farah Naz
    May 28, 2014 - 8:27PM

    It all depends on and start from the grooming you have in your home, from your mother and father..!

    Some families strictly prohibit their women from doing job and consider this, a matter of their family’s respect or dignity.

    On the same page more than 50% of our women do not want to get out of home or want their daughters or Daughter in laws to do the job!

    Good writing but we should not abuse our so called social taboos, one way or other they have their value!

    If he said so “I am not Beyghairat” He is right on his part..Recommend

  • Not Surprised
    May 29, 2014 - 8:59PM

    ET: Please publish: thanks.
    Women should be encouraged to get education and skills just like men. Those women who want to continue to work must find such partners that would support their desire to work. Things should be made very clear before marriage, including if children and how many and when children might be desired. If and when raising a family becomes the desire, women must be prepared to give up work for a couple of years as no infant should be left to the “care” of day care centers. A father cannot suckle an infant and therefore it is something that only women can do and should agree to it happily if they embark on the road to parenthood.

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  • Habib Ahmed
    May 30, 2014 - 2:46PM

    @Chaudhry Z. Ahmad:
    I agree with your thought Chaudhry Sahab.

    Recommend

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