So I keep telling my husband that Pakistan is a pretty liberal place, in my attempt to convince him that there is still hope for the country. That is, liberal for a Muslim country. Yes, I know, all kinds of atrocious things happen here in the name of religion, terrible crimes against women take place, minorities ka koi haal nahi (and unfortunately little mustaqbil either if things continue the same way). And yes occasionally we regress to the Zia era by regulating female attire on television. But when I say liberal, I am looking at it from a different, albeit very narrow perspective.
Okay I’ll admit, I am mainly comparing it to life in places like Saudi and Iran. But still. Despite all our Arab envy and growing Wahabism, our society hasn’t become that closed (yet). Women, at least in the urban centres, have it pretty okay. We are free to study and work and do whatever we please. Women can wear whatever they want, as long as they are mindful of the surroundings they are in. You can be super conservative and wear niqabs which cover even that little strip of nose between your eyes, or you can be totally khula dulla, but no one’s really invading your space (so long as you can tolerate the stares).
Women are also taking up a wider range of jobs than previously. I don’t recall seeing female guards or women working at stores till a few years ago. And even driving taxis. It’s a great sign that women are stepping out and becoming financially independent, instead of relying on men to provide for them while they sit around at home lamenting their misfortunes.
And then I come across the perfect piece of hilarity to prove my point.
I have heard of and seen signs at various restaurants, malls and recreational spots in Karachi saying men aren’t welcome without family or females. It is quite unfair to men wanting some alone time, but that’s the trade-off in making these establishments more women-friendly.
But this sign at a supermarket is a first.
Men can’t even go grocery shopping alone anymore in Karachi. Funny enough, it’s the exact opposite of Saudi. Instead of restricting women like them, it’s the unaccompanied men in Pakistan who aren’t allowed alone in public places. So concerned are we about protecting women’s freedom of movement that we have gone to the opposite extreme!
Nothing except the corner parchoon ki dukaan for men now. That is, until those put up signs as well.