Gendered stigma of divorcees still vivid



Fri, 08 Jun 2018 - 02:18 GMT


Fri, 08 Jun 2018 - 02:18 GMT

The definition of divorce- CC via Flickr/Nicholas Copernicus

The definition of divorce- CC via Flickr/Nicholas Copernicus

CAIRO - 8 June 2018: Undoubtedly, divorce is painful for both partners, and for a woman, choosing to get divorced is like choosing to go out on a limb, regardless of how unduly the spousal relationship was.

While many would argue that the stigma surrounding divorcees is not that intense anymore; unfortunately, divorce, for most divorcees, is still something that needs to be kept on the down low.

Conferring gendered stereotypes on women is no brainer and a divorced woman is definitely not spared of the madness and the social pressure. From being constantly sized up, viewed as failures and looked upon as suffering from mental, psychological issues, to being an epitome for sexual desires, the divorcee seems to be perpetually ensnared.

The following is real-lives stories of divorced women, who gave an authentic account of their life post-divorce and the emotional roller coaster they have been going through.

Full-on non-stop suffering with loose ends:
Mariam Mostafa, 26, works at a sales department of a real estate company, and was married off at the age of 19 in an arranged way; she got divorced at 20.

“He saw me at a relative’s wedding and then proposed. My family saw him as a perfect suitor and I gave in to their pressure. My ex-husband was much older than me and I was so young and I wanted to live my life and he wanted me to act in a specific way and on his own terms. He saw me unfit for him,” Mostafa told Egypt today.

Mostafa did not feel like that she could have proceeded with her marriage and what exacerbated the situation was his mother’s over-involvement in her life, as she put it, “She was prying into every single detail of our life and, thus, managing to lead a quiet marriage was pretty much impossible.”

After nearly only one-month of marriage, she requested a divorce. “My parents constantly told me that I would be a material for people’s gossip. They thought that my decision would forever trap me in a perpetual shame cycle and they thought that no one would approach me again, or think of marrying me,” She went on.

“As long as he well manages his household, you should try to keep your marriage going like all normal Egyptian women do,” they’d say, according to Mostafa.

After her divorce, Mostafa landed a job only after she discovered a new struggle.

“I remember that time when I was at a job interview and got to meet with my would-have-been boss. He literally pushed me against a wall and tried to forcibly kiss me when I spilled the beans over my marital status,” Mostafa said. “I discovered that being a divorcee makes people think of me like a lucrative epitome of desire, so I learnt that I have to continuously hide the fact that I am divorced in every workplace I might be in.”

Shortly after my divorce, many men proposed to me, most of them ran away when they learnt of my marital status and very few of whom showed willingness to continue with their proposals.

Since I am a divorced woman, which consequently connotes that I am a "second-hand" woman, I am assumed to be okay with low-key marriage proposals.

Under the microscope:
“I had my two-year marriage end at the age of 24. I was married to a relative who was in his last year of studying medicine at university,” Banker Lina Shabaana, 27, told Egypt today.

“After my-ex husband’s graduation, he was jobless and got into several failed businesses and eventually stayed at home and he did not want me to get a job because he did not want me to make him feel like a failure. He used to look down on me and say stuff like 'who would hire you?'” Shabana said.

“He was sterile but kept circulating around that it was me who was sterile and that he had the right to re-marry,” She added.

“After our divorce, I got to work; I discovered many awesome aspects of myself and started to love myself once again. I was reborn.” Shabana reveled to Egypt Today.

She said that being a divorcee means that everything you do is being judged. “You are a divorced woman so you have to watch out for your every move and for the clothes you wear. Make sure that you do not come back home at a late hour.”

Being in a failed marriage is better than a divorce?
The suffering is all-strata mayhem; Egypt today asked Siham Mahmoud, 42, who comes from a rural background, on her experience.

The idea of requesting a divorce is farfetched for rural women, regardless how painful my marriage that lasted for 15 year was, Mahmoud told Egypt today.

“My husband married a second wife and we all stayed together in the same place. He used to beat me up in front of my children, and yet I did not request a divorce because I knew that my family would not have supported me, emotionally or financially,” she added.

Mahmoud said that her divorce was the turning point of her life.
“After my divorce, I struggled financially to provide for my children who were diagnosed as psychologically unstable due to the unhealthy environment they were brought up in. I started to work as a maid to be able to provide for my children and managed to raise money to buy my own apartment and my dream now is to ensure a good quality education for them,” Mahmoud said.

She said that many men proposed to marry her afterwards, but she chose to dedicate her life to her children.

Another women revealed that she stayed in the marriage for her children. “My ex-husband was intemperate and was abusing me physically and I endured it for so long for the sake of my children. I could not imagine life without them,” Walaa Mohamed, a 38-year-old journalist told Egypt today.

Mohamed said that she got divorced twice but got back to her ex-husband after the first time he divorced her because he threatened to hide her children from her. She added that she could not endure her abusive husband and requested a divorce, forever that time.

"When a divorcee decides to remarry again, she becomes meticulously careful in choosing the next husband as the pain of the previous experience lingers for so long,” She concluded.

A "Shameful" marital status:
"I have never been ashamed of being a divorcee; I came off better after divorce; there is nothing embarrassing to hide," Samar Abdel Rahman, interpreter and translator, 32, told Egypt today.

“I went to the civil registry office to change my marital status from married to divorced. They refused to change it and left it blank, saying that the word has a poor reputation,” Abdel Rahman added.

Men explain the flip side of the coin:
Ahmed Essam, 29, store manager, said that he has got no problems to marry a divorcee as long as he shares with her mutual trust and love, “notwithstanding the whirlpool of rumors that would leave a shadow in your marriage life.”

“I still love my ex-fiancée; if she got divorced, I think I would marry her; however, my family would not be at peace with that,” Essam said.

Ahmed Mamdouh, carpenter, 35, who is married to a divorced woman, said that his current wife is the love of his life, stressing that people should not be judged by failed relationships from their past.

“My family was against this marriage and almost disowned me, but they had to deal with it eventually,” Mamdouh added. "They wanted an 'untouched' bride for me; they did not want me to marry a divorced woman because of how society usually portrays divorcees.”

However, Tarek el-Remi, a customer service agent, said that he cannot marry a divorced woman as “too many question marks surround divorced women.”

“I think my family would be distrustful of her and I don’t personally like to be with a woman who was touched before by another man,” he added.

Meanwhile, Gamal Shehata, 26, a workshop owner, thinks that it would be okay for him to wed a divorcee.

“I did not fall in love with a divorced woman before, but I think if I did, my family would not mind, simply because my sister is divorced. I know her, she is a good girl, and I think there are many good divorced women out there who deserve another chance,” Shehata went on.

Root Cause:
"It’s regrettable to say that our Arab communities are regressing backwards, not progressing forward," Mahasen Saber, a presenter at Motalakat Radio (Radio of the Divorced) said.

Saber told Egypt today that the marred view of divorcees adopted by society is still unfortunately common, adding that those in charge of the radio regularly receive abusive messages and comments on their Facebook accounts. Many people, including women, deplore our activities in supporting divorced women and still view the divorced woman as “recalcitrant”.

Founded in 2010, the internet-based Motalakat Radio has been helping a lot of divorcees get by after separation through awareness programs.

One of our aims is to inform women of the services provided by the National Council for Women (NCW) and the National Council for Children and motherhood (NCCM), Saber told Egypt today.

“Divorce is associated with fairness in Islamic traditions,” Ayman el-Baioumy, a social researcher, told Egypt Today, citing a Quranic verse of Suret Al Ahzab, which says that divorce must be done in an amicable way, “unlike how the society actually deals with the situation.”

“We need scholars to address the issue in a systematic manner to eliminate the misguiding traditions that thrive in times of ignorance and social injustices,” he concluded.



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