Today I am touching on a subject that is taboo in my society. It may be somewhat strange for many since it is very different from what western women are accustomed to. Physical intimacy between Pakistani couples especially on the woman’s part. Before I go any further, you need to have a little understanding about how an average Pakistani woman is raised when it comes intimacy.
The concept of physical intimacy is one that is entirely untouched not just for young women but also for men in our society. Women and men alike are usually left to their own devices to figure out what is happening to their bodies as they grow up. Sexual education is virtually nonexistent, formally or informally.
Primary among the reasons for this lack of sexual education is that the social structure is largely governed by our religion. Physical intimacy is only discussed in terms of marriage. People may not intend it but this misguided approach to how women must act in society according to Islam creates more problems for the women. Part of this approach includes this topic being considered both a religious and social taboo and so no education or information is given to either the men or the women.
There is also a stark difference in the upbringing of those in the rural and urban areas in Pakistan. The women living in urban centers maybe be able to get some information from their peers (or the Internet) but women living in villages are devoid of such options.
Physical Intimacy Dilemma
From an early age, girls are discouraged from interacting with their male counterparts. They are taught that the only person they can be intimate with are their future husbands. Girls are not allowed to get to know other boys or be friends with them. This creates a fairy-tale notion about how a perfect marriage is supposed to be. I say fairy-tale as girls turning into women usually do not get to experience relationships with men until after they are married. Physical intimacy with anyone other than one’s spouse is forbidden in Islam. Abiding by the religious code is the basis of character assessment (especially for women).
Intimacy in Marriage
Even though love marriages are getting increasingly common in Pakistan, mostly in the cities, tradition still promotes the marriages that are guided by the process of arranged marriages. It usually goes that the boy’s family contacts the girl’s asking for her hand. If her parents perceive the boy to be stable and good for their daughter, they will say yes. The girl and the boy are usually discouraged to interact before they are married so it is difficult for them to figure out if they are even compatible or not.
PDA Is A No-No
Public displays of affection (PDA) are another taboo in Pakistan; even for married couples. Such interactions are vehemently looked down on particularly for unmarried couple but married couples are also discouraged. Any form of affection is acceptable behind closed doors. Intimate contact or show of affection (like kissing or more intimate contact beyond that) by unmarried couple or in public is even punishable by law.
Is it draconian? This may seem like an overly rigid society but these social codes have been in place for a long time and usually work quite well for the couples in Pakistani society. Owing to a rigid code, we are shielded from the over-sexualizing of every aspect of our lives. There are very few teenage pregnancies, lower divorce rates and very few illicit relationships.
While I do not advocate this as an ideal physical intimacy code for couples it works well for most people here.
What are your thoughts on this? Would we see less sexualisation in western cultures were we to adopt such codes? Are women being allowed to freely express themselves in such “confines?” Share your thoughts with us on this and any other topics that Neelma Tashfeen has discussed with us about the life and culture in Pakistan. You can search her posts by clicking below her image on the right sidebar.
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