Sunday , September 22 2019
Home / Laws / Purdah and gender order in Pakistani culture

Purdah and gender order in Pakistani culture

In Pakistan women have usually been considered to survive under the limitation of purdah. So, the study of women’s life and status in the society cannot be adequately carried out without giving the critical weightage of purdah as stable elements in everyday life of women in Pakistani Muslim society. If directly or indirectly focuses on purdah in one or the other way, Purdah will be one of the major causes of current social status of working women in Pakistani culture. ….. No doubt purdah is a real feature of a woman’s life in Pakistan and is normally ignored in development related to research (Shaheed 1989:18).

In Pakistani culture, it has been observed that females are absent from public life, mainly in the KPK and Balochistan provinces, the other side, males are present everywhere; in front of their houses, in the streets and bazaars, public parks, at work places, in the markets, the office and shops. The younger women can be seen in these places with clad into a bouquet, a chaddor, or a dupatta and their heads bent and eyes cast down towards the earth. They walk quickly through the streets, while everybody’s eyes follow them. Definition of purdah (literally meanings ‘curtain’ in Urdu) commonly refers to the practice of gender segregation and the seclusion of women and girls, as well as their veiling in public (e.g. Balchin 1996; 178; Shaheed/Mumtaz: 75).

Terms like ‘segregation’ and ‘seclusion’, which are usually associated with purdah, make clear that the “crucial characteristics of purdah observance is the limitation of interaction between the women and men outside certain well-defined categories” (H. Papanek 1971:519), and that therefore purdah surely aims at the “creation of separate worlds of man and women” (H. Papanek 1971:528): …..One of the most important features of Muslim Purdah is that social interaction between man and women is delimited by the norm of association. In this regard, social approach and affiliation between men and women is possible only if they are relative….. (Ibraz 1993:105).

It is therefore obvious that social contact between men and women is allowed for those whose cannot get marriage in accordance with Islamic law: they are said to be mahram5 to each other and similar attitude however, na-mahram word is used for unaccepted persons. This restriction of intercourse between na-mahram men and women is often accredited in the literature to what Vogt names the “Islamic Theory of Sexuality and Sexual Behavior of Men and Women” (H. Vagt 1992:35). Of course, the Moroccan sociologist Fatima Mernissi (1987) is the best known social scientist with regard to the study of the Muslim understanding of sexuality, and many researchers who follow her line of argumentation have been published during the last few years (e.g. Sabbah 1998:25-43; Heller/ Mosbahi 1993:66-82; Gerani 1998; Dhal 1997). All these publications are not necessarily to be logical.

They are marked by different, even contradictory statements and interpretations. The central point is based on the analyses. In short, the main idea is that, according to the Muslim concept of sexuality, women’s sexuality is based on the needs of women, which are so strong that they can hardly be kept under control; and since they have to be satisfied by the men, a situation arises in which the women becomes hunter and the men becomes victim.6 In this way, the concept of sexuality between men and women are principally make out as sexual mediators (D. Pahnke 1992:11; Mernissi 1985:220). The constant derive of women appealing men is not considered as an individual divergence, but as a dangerous collective phenomenon (Heller 1993:69) that has to be dealt with on a global stage, i.e., through gender separation.

There are two purposes of veiling of women in the public, one is to protect women from men into interaction with each other and the second is to cover the women’s sexual attractions, which is easy for men to victimize them. Historically, the Islam insists that purdah is the shield of the family and it is assumed to prevent extramarital sexual encounters (Darwisch / Liebl 1991:7; See also Sherif 1987:51). Provided that, in Muslim societies the social order is provided by concept concerning (female) sexuality and by thoughts how sexuality can be organized and controlled in a good manner. This worldview is simply there, operating between people more or less unconsciously as a part of everyday life (Dhal 1997: 104/134; Mernissi 1987.45): The end result is a gender order whose main characteristic is gender separation.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *