Marriages are routinely and unapologetically arranged to solidify business interests, land disputes and old vendettas. The woman, then, with the maligning spectre of divorce hanging over her, is left to endure whatever abuse her husband or in-laws may heap on her
Recently, Mukhtar Mai’s married Nasir Abbas Gabol in her low-key hometown of Meerwala. The publicity and the debate generated by the event, however, resonated across the globe, garnering attention from international newspapers and television channels.
Yet, unlike the coverage of the brutal events and awe-inspiring heroism that initially catapulted Mukhtar Mai into the public eye, many of the stories published in the Western media betrayed the confusion of attempts to process the somewhat unlikely union.
Indeed, Mukhtar’s marriage presents a conundrum even to Pakistani feminists. Should the fact that Mukhtar chose to get married after having vowed never to do so be celebrated or condemned? How should one evaluate the fact that she was to be a second wife? Even further, is the act of marrying a man who threatens to kill himself and destroy his own family if she refused him an act of resistance or coercion? Should the fact that she set the conditions for the marriage be touted as an example for other women? Finally, was there possibly a romantic spin to be put on the story, where a constable entrusted with guarding his charge falls in love with her and ultimately marries her despite the social stigmas attached to her?