Like a broken record on repeat, this is the continual chant and mantra of many people within our South Asian society. From a very young age when you first express your desires and ambitions as to what you may pursue with the coming of age you are then generally barraged with the “what about the”-type questions. God forbid that you desire to enter the realm of international relations or a career that would possibly require you to leave the state, country even perhaps?
Then you are certain to be greeted by several accusing glares from various elderly aunties and uncles who may now also deem you “rebellious” and having lowered your “marriage credibility and suitability”. On the other hand if you’d like to gladly make the cut, fit social and conventional norms and avoid being branded for life then surely do opt for a career pathway perhaps as a doctor, teacher, engineer or best of all a housewife will definitely keep those in-laws satisfied for the time-being.
What’s my view and standpoint in regards to South Asian conventions? I’m only jumping on the marriage bandwagon when I’ve completed my university education, established a career and brought somewhat of a form of stability in my life. At this point, the pessimists have started to quickly estimate and calculate the years and swaying their heads in disapproval as to the assumed age I shall be at the ‘stability point of time’. As all who are unaware of the idealistic age of marriage within South Asian society tends to centre on the ripe age of 19-24.
However those who enter the realm of the 25 plus category then consider yourself as the ‘Godfather of the Institution of Marriage’ for having deified all the culturally guided laws pertaining to civil unions. Women within the South Asian society are adorned in marigolds and whisked off when they’re not entirely ready and prepared mentally, spiritually and physically. This is a widespread concept and not confined to the borders of South Asian countries but rather families that have migrated and settled within foreign lands where the customs somewhat differ.
It is also the concept of being reliant and dependant entirely on a male for financial assistance that needs to come to a halt. At this point some people are contradicting my statement and saying but our religious texts claim the male as the breadwinner of
the family. However look again and these religious texts also further state and make clear that there is no restriction for a woman to have a profession or pursue work or that her only place is at home. For a religion such as Islam which is often misrepresented as so-called oppressing women it rather clearly states and encourages females to pursue a wide range of career choices ranging from teachers to physicians.
That being said, in my opinion the milestone or pinnacle of a woman’s life should not be marked as getting married. It is the message of female empowerment that needs to start being emphasized and not just within the confines of the South Asian culture but rather
worldwide. It is only through the cycle of female empowerment that women will pursue and invest in an education, gain employment, and develop an understanding of their rights, equality and power before opting for marriage.
Something that the South Asian culture is somewhat reluctant towards .For those who are now questioning me as rejecting the institution of marriage, that is not the case. What I’m asking is for societies to let women deliberate for themselves. Whilst others may see starting a family and running a household as a key part of their lifelong ambitions, so be it, as long as she is not being pressured or overwhelmed by her spouse or her in-laws (as is this case at times within society).
At the end of the day, this is just my viewpoint on the situation within the society that I have grown up in, been raised and come to know of firsthand. In no manner am I enforcing my stance on ‘female empowerment’ on all of women-kind as at the end of the day every female is entitled to her form of ‘empowerment’. The fact that my South Asian parents who migrated to Australia almost two decade ago and are encouraging of my choice in pursuing a law degree with a move towards international diplomacy and to be able to establish myself as an individual is clearly a step towards a change in the wider mindset of all.
As the clichéd saying goes, it only takes one person to make a difference. In my case, it only takes one Pakistani family to change the mindset of many, many more.