ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

How can love end up in violence? Normalization of violence in everyday marital choices of women in Pakistan.


Iqbal Sana - The Institute of Ismaili Studies, London, United Kingdom


21- Panel Title: Violence against women in South Asian countries


 Love marriages are celebrated around the world, where two individuals come together to celebrate their love and agree to a social bond. On the contrary, the lives of women in Pakistan are characterised by the poor agency and a lack of control over marital decisions, which often results in domestic violence. A case in point is how Saima Waheed, a young Pakistani woman from an ordinary middle-class family was opposed by her family for marrying the man guy she loved in 1996. Her decision to choose a partner was taken as a crime by her family and she faced extreme physical confinement and psychological torture perpetrated by her own father. Her father challenged her legal case on the grounds that in Islam, it is religiously imperative to seek one’s parents’ consent for marriage which unfolded many debates about the rights of women in Pakistan as well as their rights to equal citizenship. This is also true for women from low-income settlements who have been continually exposed to changing configurations of violence, from structural and systemic making them bear the physical, emotional, and reputational cost. Drawing on interviews with 18 women from Karachi, this paper studies the impact of the violence perpetuated on women who choose to make their marital choices and examines how they are negotiating the relations of power at home. Their stories were filled with death warrants, rape, and domestic violence requiring us to re-evaluate the concept of love using a feminist lens.