As we all know that every society has its peculiar cruelties. In Pakistan, the loop hung around women’s necks is the order that they must marry as they can never live alone or do anything by themselves. So central is this perception that when a woman wants to live alone, willingly, the first question arises: “Divorce hui hai kia?” or “Kuch ghalat toh nai kia jo ghar se nikal dia ghar walon ne.” The perceptions and assumptions desi community holds within themselves.

Pakistani culture does not “permit” women to live alone. This means that a woman must marry whatever fool shows up at her doorstep. A woman may be the CEO of the largest multinational in the country, she may be a cancer-curing doctor, or she may be the owner of a thriving business, but she cannot set up a household by herself and live her life on her own terms as the society won’t accept.

At the same time, the rule that women cannot live alone forces scores of women into absurd situations. Firstly, it becomes very hard to find an apartment or building where people “accept” her living alone. The desi comunity also judges saying: “Larke toh nai ayengay? Yahan parties ka koi riwaj nahi hai!” The only problem is that the woman cannot ‘live’ in this apartment.

Many women who want to live alone usually aren’t able to because of their traditional families who do not want them to live by themselves. “Permitting” her to do so, they fear, would send the message that they are unwilling or unable to take care of their daughter, who, being unmarried, requires them to function as her male guardians. Not having her stay in their homes would bring dishonor to the family. Tired of all this admonishment and meddling, the woman resides at her family home.

Some Pakistani women have disobeyed this rule and chosen to live by themselves. Some have chosen to take jobs in cities away from their families, others began living by themselves when they decided to live in a hostel while attending an educational institution at a distance from their home. If single women are harassed by nosy people inquiring why they have not married, or interrogations designed to ferret out some fact that will explain their ‘bechari’ single condition, the women who choose to live alone must bear an additional burden.

Not only have they deferred away as extremely flawed owing to their denial to wed, but they are also now morally questionable because of their claim of living apart from the family in their own home. ‘No wonder,’ the relatives gossip amongst themselves behind their backs, ‘she is not married’. The least one can do is stop asking single women why they do not wed or why they want to live alone. It is, quite simply, nobody’s business.


Hi! I'm an occasional reader, an avid writer and a fiercely firm feminist too. Hope you read & like my articles. I don't do politics much but I love writing for women, culture & life!