Gender & Identity Life

It’s a liability to be born a girl in Pakistan. I’m proof of that.

“It’s a girl,” stated the nurse dully as loud cries erupted out of the O.R.

For any other family, this would’ve been a moment of pure bliss, but in this case, it felt like a decade’s worth of grave despair.

“B-but we, we asked the head of the mosque to pray and he said it would be a boy this time, as long as we didn’t get any ultrasounds,” replied an elderly woman with wrinkles on her face.

They desperately wanted a baby boy. Why you ask? 

Well, that’s simply because a girl was considered a liability; a girl would get married and start living in a new house, whereas a boy would earn money. He would be their sole support system in times of dire need. He would cater to the needs of his elders when they’re old and gray. 

He would bring home a wife who would devote every single one of her breaths to keeping them content; serve them cups of piping hot tea every second and massaging their broken backs, legs, and arms for as long as they desire.  

But reality had struck them hard so, disappointed as ever, her in-laws and her middle-aged husband walked into the room where the tired wife lay, with shame painted all across her beautiful face. “I-I’m so sorry”, she said naïvely, guilt lacing her every word.

“Ahh, she’s no good, giving birth to girls is as good as being infertile. Son, you need to find yourself another wife.” These were the exact words of that elderly mother-in-law.

The young woman on the stretcher bawled her eyes out and begged them for another chance, but they just didn’t want to listen.

None of them felt a single ray of pity for her.

And so, started the torment.

The exhausted young woman came back to, what she affectionately called home, from the hospital, only to see all her belongings stuffed in suitcases. “What’s going on?” she stuttered out, anxiously, even though her gut had long alerted her to what was to come.

“This is it for you, go back to your maika (mother’s home).”

They kicked her out, threw her on the streets like she was as dead as a doornail, with a wide-eyed child gazing at her, adoringly.

That ill-fated child was me. I was the jinxed soul she looked at with gallons of tears in her eyes for she felt the clouds of darkness looming over me, but she didn’t give up. She fought relentlessly for both our lives; worked at five different cafés as a waitress, came back home in the early hours of the morning, and a couple of hours later, went back to work again after dropping me off at her friend’s place.

Her broken heart was a weapon that anyone and everyone used against her.

She was deemed characterless simply because her family was absent of men who could “keep a watchful eye on her.” Her kindness to any man was constantly taken as “flirtation” because what else was to be expected of a woman whose own husband couldn’t bear to stay with her, right?

I was forced to grow up feeling like one huge sin.

All through primary and middle school, no one wanted to interact with me. I would always hear moms whispering to one another saying things like, “Oh god, so she doesn’t have a father?” “I bet she’s one hell of a spoilt brat because she’s being raised by a single parent.” “Hmph, like mother, like daughter.”

Living my life took courage.

So much, that by age sixteen, I had to spend every P.E. period at the counselor’s office.

With every passing day, I was beginning to hate myself more and more. I never opened up to anyone about how I felt. I didn’t think my life had a purpose. The hatred everyone threw at me was deemed acceptable because it was somehow my fault that I had been born to a prick of a father.

My self-destructive behavior was at its peak when I met Maira, a girl with a very similar past to mine.

The only difference between her and I, though, were our attitudes.

She didn’t listen to people who wronged her. Instead, she befriended those who didn’t give her too hard a time. She actually used to smile, brush her hair till it was as straight as an angel’s flight, smelled of cheap perfume but still didn’t stink like I did, and made sure to wake up at 5 in the morning to make sandwiches for herself and her tiny group of friends, which now included me. She was nothing short of a living legend. Maira made me realize that I was not responsible for the things that took place before I was born.

Because of her, I thought to myself, “enough is enough.”

I was not something to be looked down upon. I was my own person. I didn’t have to let others define me or determine the way I felt about myself. Maira made me perceive just how beautiful life could be.

With her around me, I felt safe, like I wasn’t the only one living this life. I was NOT a stain to be hidden away, but a living accomplishment.

After countless years of hating on myself and my past, I, for once, came home, content. I held my mother in a tight embrace and said, “Mama, today I am happy,” something I hadn’t been for as long as the both of us could remember. She hugged me back a billion times harder, kissed me on the forehead, and said she loved me.

I felt so energized. Like someone had just breathed some life into me.

My grades went from D’s to A’s, I started making friends, and those backstabbing moms didn’t seem to bother me anymore. I started going to school every father’s day. I stopped letting narrowminded people tell me that not having a father was an infirmity of some sort because, for me, it wasn’t a choice.

I still have dark memories that get the best of me now and then, but overall, I love my life.

I consider myself a survivor and not a victim, only because I found Maira. But my advice to anyone out there who is going through the same is to learn how to become your own Maira.

You are as valuable as any other human being, regardless of what anyone thinks about you.

Don’t let societal pressures coerce you into treating your own self like trash.

And most importantly, treat yourself to a pat on the back, now and then, for how far you’ve come despite all the hindrances that could’ve held you back.