Social Issues

Pakistan fumes as Malala stirs controversy over marriage comment

By Jaime León

Islamabad, June 8 (EFE).- An apparent candid remark by Pakistani Noble Peace laureate Malala Yousafzai questioning the need to get married has triggered a storm in the country.

The controversial statement that triggered a backlash against the young activist was even discussed in a provincial assembly.

“I still do not understand why people have to get married. If you want to have a person in your life, why do you have to sign marriage papers, why cannot it just be a partnership,” the 23-year-old said in an interview to the Vogue magazine.

People in the conservative country where family-arranged marriages are still a norm have perceived it as an attack on Pakistani culture and Islam

United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says 21 percent of women are married before 17 years in Pakistan.

The Oxford graduate in philosophy, political science, and economy faced a barrage of criticism on Pakistani social media while clerics also demanded explanations from her.

“I am angry with the Taliban that they did not hit (her) properly,” tweeted user Arif Shahzad, referring to a gunshot to the head that Malala received in 2015 during an assassination attempt for her advocacy of girls’ education.

Popular cleric Mufti Shahabuddin Popalzai demanded a clarification from Malala’s father Ziauddin Yousafzai on Twitter.

“The media and social media have shared the excerpt of her interview out of context and according to their own interpretations. And that’s it,” Ziauddin tweeted in response.

However, the furor has not stopped, and on Friday the activist’s statement was discussed in the provincial assembly of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where Malala’s native city is situated.

The House sought an explanation from her.

“She (Malala) should clarify if she has not made that statement,” lawmaker Sahibzada Sanaullah told the House.

Sanaullah told EFE that unless Malala published a clarification renouncing the stand, he would present a resolution against her in the provincial assembly.

“She can’t talk of having a partnership as it’s against Islam and against the Pashtun traditions,” said the lawmaker.

Another lawmaker Inayatullah Khan said the global icon should respect the values of Pashtuns, the ethnic community she belongs to, and Islam.

Such a response is not surprising in Pakistan, a highly patriarchal society that figures among the worst countries for women.

Falling in love with someone can cost one their life in the so-called honor killings.

Forced marriages are common in a country that ranks 153rd out of 156 in the gender gap index of the World Economic Forum.

Feminist activists have spent years trying in vain to ban marriages before the age of 18, the current legal age is 16, and bring laws against domestic violence amid stiff resistance from Islamists.

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