When I heard the news about my aunt’s divorce for the first time, I was relieved. Thank God, she was finally free from her miserable marriage. She was so nice to everyone and it was a shame for her to stay in her emotionally abusive marriage. I wondered why it took so long for them to split up after being together for almost 15 years, but that did not matter anymore since she was finally a free woman. She was happier than ever. Divorce was indeed the best decision she ever made that time.
But that was not how my family sees it.
There was one time when my aunt, my grandmother and I were having a conversation. Suddenly my grandmother brought up my aunt’s divorce and hearing her every word about it, I could not be more shocked. She advised my aunt to dress modestly and not to talk to men for the time being.
It baffled me at first. That was weird. How did that have anything to do with her divorce?
My grandmother continued, saying that it was not appropriate for a divorcée to dress a certain way. A lot of people would think she was up to no good and trying to get attention from any man she could. As a newly-divorced woman, she would be seen as desperate for a man’s companionship after splitting up with her husband. After all, it must have been lonely, being on her own after living with her husbands for years. My aunt was not surprised, but I was flabbergasted. Was that really how society perceived divorced women? Sadly, for Muslim communities, the answer is yes.
To this day, nothing has changed. Women are still marginalized from society because of their status as a divorcée. Their quality as a woman is lowered and she is considered the last option for men. But worse, women are seen as the reason for the marriage breakup.
This is a reality for the Muslim community in Asia. No matter what the reason is, women are always at fault for the divorce. Most women will get the blame for divorce while men are off the hook from any accusation or from being the topic of gossip.
“You could not take care of your husband well, now look what happened.”
“You were not good enough for him and look what happened? He is now taken by another woman!”
Those are just some of the things Muslim divorcées hear. There are a lot nastier and sometimes, ridiculous reasons people can come up with to just to blame women.
As a divorced woman, she will either be the topic of conversations or avoided altogether. A divorcée is either a slut or problematic and there is no in between or other categories.
Just imagine a divorced man, talking and laughing with other women. No one would say a word because nothing seems wrong with that. But when a divorced woman does it, everyone starts to talk. Instead of being supportive, the community would rather bring women down. Perhaps, this is why divorced women tend to keep their status in the dark.
Things are no different in Middle East countries, either. The way women are perceived after divorce is just like in Asia – the wrong ones and the potential homewreckers. Unlike women in Asia who hides their status, Middle Eastern women would rather stay in their problematic marriage than be free of it. They are willing to endure any kind of abuse, believing it is better than to face the negative backlash from their family and society. In some cases, the parents interfered and refused to let their daughters get a divorce because of the dishonor it would bring to the family. Because the moment it is finalized, these women will step out of the court with a new status – failure in the community.
There is one thought crossed my mind sometimes – did they ever once wonder how does it feel to be in these women’s circumstances?
There is no reason for any woman to leave a happy marriage and condemn their life into loneliness. Divorce is a distressing experience for all women. It will take a while for them to come to terms with their situation, but there are more obstacles and difficulties to be overcome. Especially for single mothers, they need love and support, emotionally and financially from their close ones. However, society is too quick to judge, which added more to their struggles and burden without realizing sometimes divorce is inevitable.