top of page

Deconstruction of Pardah

“Cover yourself up, there are men all around”, “it’s a family gathering, you can’t go without wearing a dupatta” and the most popularly “Maa baap nay ghar may koi sharam aur haya nai sikhaye kya?” you are not desi enough if you have not, at least once, been a victim of “chastity shaming”. Often, such remarks are associated and limited to women alone.


Pardah, according to Wikipedia, is a social and religious practice of Muslim society of screening women from men and strangers as a form of seclusion. Islam defines pardah as the idea of modesty and decency in interactions between people of different genders. The two widely differing definitions signal the even wider connotations of the word itself. However, with the Pakistani culture in context where Islamic values are heavily infused in the creation of cultural identities and values, it is often challenging to tell the two apart. Who identifies what pardah is and how it is to be practiced? Do we resort to Islam or culture? How are the two intertwined in a balanced manner?


Upholding pardah is seen as the identifying feature of a supposedly “good woman.” It reflects a good family, and it is what constructs a good marriage. It is synonymous with the hijab and niqab and segregation. some argue that it is an ever-evolving idea to fit different contexts. It plays a pivotal role in the construction of a gendered space where binary gender roles are strictly identified and any deviation from the constructed norm is considered dishonorable, degrading, and disrespectful. It is seen as a means for women for attaining true happiness and ultimate empowerment by feeling protected from gazes of the unwanted but the manifestation of this idea itself is a recipe for misogyny. How can a women feel empowered through the means of purdah when it not only restricts their mobility but also interprets their movement, their language, their dress code, and their behavior? Why do they have to be protected through an external force instead of fostering an environment safe enough where women do not have to rely on anyone or anything? Why do they have to be subjected to constant surveillance when they are perfectly capable of making their own decisions?


The idea of pardah, as set forth in our culture, revolves around strict gender segregation and physical cover up in an attempt to eradicate “foul relations” (as defined by the culture and religion) has in turn, to an extent, served as the breeding ground for patriarchy whilst generating a sex starved society. How beneficial and protective has the idea of pardah truly been if Pakistan is amongst the ten worst countries for women to live in? A country that preaches respect for women yet still reports an average of four rape cases daily.


The famous show Churails has raised eyebrows as it subverts the stereotypes attached to what is identified as a good woman. It addresses topics of class, feminism, homosexuality, abuse, harassment, racism, and patriarchy through the eyes of women in multiple roles- a homemaker, a wedding planner, and a boxer. The show sets to empower women in the country only to be banned for "boldly" addressing matters that occur so commonly but behind closed doors. Since it challenged the traditional picture of an ideal docile woman, it was described as indecent and inappropriate. How are shows such as kaisa hai naseeban, hum kahan kay sachay thay, and qisa meher bano ka that glorify the abuse and objectification of women popularly produced but shows that empower women banned?

Perhaps what we demand is a social deconstruction of the idea of pardah itself to construct an entirely new idea of it within the framework of religion rather than an infusion of it with self-generated culture and society. Pardah is not just an entity for women but should not be gender specific rather gender neutral regardless of what a person’s sexual identification may be. And it is surely not the only guard of morality alone.

139 views7 comments

7件のコメント


Thank you for sifting through such complex ideas, and framing them in a way that can be easily understood. I really appreciate the way you've portrayed the idea of "cultural" pardah in opposition to that of the "religious" one. Really, on most occasions, the only comeback men - and sometimes even women - have for such discussions, or women in general, is that "women should cover up" and any woman not doing so is the source of "fahashi" in this society.

It needs to be understood that covering up is a choice, and choosing not to do so is in no way a signifier of one's immorality nor immodesty. These cultural biases are in need of re-visitation for their unfair…

いいね!

A very engaging and insightful post Wadana! I really like how you used the example of churails at the end to tie your whole argument together because that show also does a great job at subverting a lot of traditional stereotypes related to femininity in our culture. Also your post made think about Stuart hall’s concepts related to meanings being socially constructed so the ideas that we generally associate with pardah (like modesty and honour) are not fixed or inherent but rather produced culturally. And it these social constructions that create an unfair benchmark for supposed morality which has direct implications in terms of policing women’s dressing and subjugating them. For instance, the widespread belief that pardah "protects" women from…

いいね!

I really liked how detailed your analysis was and agree with a lot of the points made, especially that the concept of pardah should apply to anyone regardless of their gender. However, I do think that the idea that women cannot feel empowered through pardah is a bit of a generalisation especially considering the fact that the way it is intended (in a religious manner of speaking) may be different from the way it is actually used (culturally), though I do get what you mean.

And since we are deconstructing, I also realised that the word ‘pardah’ is a hindi/urdu word and is only used south-east asian contexts. In fact, there is no word for pardah in Arabic, and the…

いいね!

Mubashir Mémon
Mubashir Mémon
2023年6月14日

Enjoyed the article! Loved how you went into great detail about why we need the social deconstruction of the idea of Pardah itself. In the show's context, the director has utilized the visual representation of Pardah as a powerful tool to communicate a broader message about the multifaceted nature of this practice. From the outset, the director subtly subverts the traditional notion that Pardah symbolizes only innocence and vulnerability. Instead, Pardah becomes a symbol of strength and defiance against the patriarchal structures that seek to control women's lives. This was something worthy of recognition, since it challenges the traditional portrayals we generally see in most Pakistani dramas.


Most importantly, it emphasizes that Pardah can be a personal choice and a…

いいね!
返信先

Agreed! Subjectivity extends to everything, even the idea of pardah and the meaning they interpret. it's interesting of pardah is socially constructed into holding so many meanings even in an Islamic society (from where it stems). And that's what churails represented best, in my opinion... the diversity that the idea of pardah holds in so many aspects. But building this narrative and understanding is one that takes time in the media since it is hesitant to change when addressing certain "sensitive" topics that ultimately defines the society.

いいね!

Great read! It's very true that the concept of pardah is romanticized and also not romanticized in a lot of ways. Even within Pakistani television, many female leads are shown to do pardah when they step out of their houses as this idea of "innocence." Just how you mention that pardah is associated with this idea of a "good" woman, many television writers reinforce these ideas with parental characters asking for their daughters to do pardah and many family members using terms like "behaya" for women who don't. Churails, like you mentioned, uses a similar idea where female characters are told to wear burqas when they step out. But I believe this idea has a lot to do with the…


いいね!
返信先

you have raised an absolutely valid point in regard to pardah also being a matter of class and "modernism". i think the whole idea of it ultimately depends on where you reside. Perhaps walking around in DHA without a pardah( here i mean a burqa) would not be an issue primarily because of the sort of safe and comfortable environment it has created and how anyone who fails to comply is made to face the consequences, but due to lack of regularity and education( i mean enlightenment and being more open minded) pardah is somewhat of a protection against the unwanted. I suppose the idea of pardah then does not boil down to a single determinant but is rather a…

いいね!
Post: Blog2_Post
bottom of page