5 South Asian Women Breaking the Divorce Taboo

We look at some incredible South Asian women who are confronting the divorce taboo head on and creating a safer space for those suffering.

5 South Asian Women Breaking the Divorce Taboo

Her ex-husband's actions were premeditated

Amidst the cultural nuances that shape South Asian communities, divorce has long been cloaked in stigma.

Its discussion is often relegated to hushed tones and sidelong glances.

However, a new generation of South Asian women is emerging from the shadows, dispelling the myths and misconceptions that have enshrouded divorce for decades.

Through their courage to share personal narratives, these women are not merely dismantling the stigma but also reshaping the discourse around divorce.

The stories are as diverse as the communities they represent.

From the tech-savvy urban dwellers to those rooted in more traditional settings, South Asian women are harnessing various platforms to share their experiences openly.

Social media, in particular, has become a powerful tool, providing a space for these women to connect, support, and amplify their voices.

Whether through blogs, podcasts, or the ubiquitous TikTok videos, they are forging connections that transcend geographical boundaries.

Huda Alvi

5 South Asian Women Breaking the Divorce Taboo

Huda Alvi is a resilient and passionate CEO from Canada who has shared her inspiring journey from early challenges in marriage to becoming an influential figure empowering women.

Huda married at the age of 18 and faced challenges early on due to cultural norms and then became a young mother of two by 21.

Enduring an unhealthy marriage with verbal abuse, accusations, and hidden drug abuse led to her decision to leave for the well-being of her and her children.

To restart her life, Huda moved in with her parents, worked to support her family, and eventually found the strength to leave the toxic marriage.

Even though she was on the right path, it wasn’t without further hurdles, after Huda was fired from her job for frequent absences for her children.

However, she remained strong and founded a successful recruiting agency, iStaff.

Eventually, she found a supportive partner (now husband, Bub) and rebuilt her life, regaining confidence through travel and self-discovery.

Knowing that similar women experienced the same type of marriage she had and the long-term impact this can have on finances and children, Huda launched The Girls Trip in 2018.

The company curates travel experiences for women, addressing financial and planning barriers.

Huda’s journey aligns with the #movethedial movement, aiming to empower women, break comfort zones, and share inspiring stories.

This emphasises the importance of speaking out about experiences and failures to inspire others.

For the future, Huda envisions her endeavours as a lifestyle brand, encouraging women, particularly Muslim women, to embrace second opportunities.

Aiming to make a difference in the world, she highlights the interconnected loop of inspiration when giving back.

Dr Suchitra Dalvie

5 South Asian Women Breaking the Divorce Taboo

Dr Suchitra Dalvie is the co-founder of the Asia Safe Abortion Partnership and author of Roadmap to Managing Divorce.

The book arose from Suchitra’s personal experience of going through a divorce and the lack of information available in India.

She aims to provide a comprehensive guide to support women in their divorce journeys.

One of her main goals is to normalise divorce.

Suchitra believes this is important as it questions societal emphasis on eternal marriage and addresses the challenges of conflicting personalities.

She also offers support for divorced individuals, especially women.

Suchitra advocates for providing emotional support to these people, acknowledging their pain, offering unconditional safety, and validating their experiences.

She emphasises the need to allow individuals to express their emotions, including crying, without judgment.

Furthermore, Suchitra presents discussions around the stereotypes of divorce on children, asserting that the quality of the family environment is more critical than the structure. 

Her work highlights the need to focus on addressing abuse and unhappiness rather than stigmatising divorce.

But, perhaps the work that Suchitra is most well-known for is her concept of Conscious Uncoupling.

This emphasises emotional freedom, liberation, and the ability to consciously separate from toxic relationships.

It is not limited to divorce but extends to any toxic relationship, including family or colleagues.

This method involves seven steps and can take up to 10 weeks to put into practice, involving exercises, self-work, and coaching over therapy.

Suchitra also advocates for marriage reform, including eliminating caste restrictions in marriage and addressing issues like domestic violence and dowry deaths.

Shasvathi Siva

5 South Asian Women Breaking the Divorce Taboo

Shasvathi Siva is a creative director and on a mission to normalise divorce and has been actively working towards this for over five years.

She was married at 24 and divorced at 27, and her immediate family and friends were supportive, focusing on “what next” rather than dwelling on “why”.

Shasvathi faced societal pressure and questions about why she needed to openly discuss her divorce.

This led her to reflect on the disparity between the celebration of marriages and the secrecy surrounding divorces.

Inspired by her experiences in a New York support group, Shasvathi started her own support group in the Indian context, where over 650 people, with 80% being women, have joined.

Shasvathi portrays the importance of financial independence for women, advising against quitting jobs or dependency on partners solely due to marriage.

She sees the necessity of an emergency fund for women, irrespective of their career, life stage, or salary.

Interestingly, Shasvathi celebrated her “new phase of life” with a divorce party, highlighting the importance of viewing divorce as a new beginning.

Following a popular TedX talk in 2020, Shasvathi wrote the book Divorce is Normal, published in 2023, sharing her experiences and insights.

Here, she encourages people to create their support systems and not stay in unhappy marriages due to societal pressure.

Through her methods and processes, Shasvathi found love again through a dating app and got engaged. 

Minreet Kaur

5 South Asian Women Breaking the Divorce Taboo

At the age of 27, Minreet Kaur entered into marriage with a man she met in west London.

Unfortunately, the union proved to be disastrous, leading her back to her parents’ home within a year.

Since then, she has been on a quest to find another life partner, only to confront a disheartening reality: the majority of Punjabi men seem unwilling to marry a divorcee.

Approaching the milestone of turning 40 during lockdown brought Minreet a sense of relief, shielding her from the intrusive comments questioning her single status.

The inquiries ranged from whether she desired marriage, had a boyfriend, or even whether she was gay.

Embracing her single status, Minreet expresses that her only regret was not having a divorce celebration.

Back then, divorce carried immense stigma within her community, marking her as “damaged goods”.

As she now navigates being a single woman in her 40s and living with her parents, Minreet faces a new set of societal judgments.

Messages from the community continue to inquire about her marriage prospects, revealing the persistent societal pressure to conform to traditional expectations.

Frustrated by the recurring judgment of divorced or single women, Minreet challenges the double standards within her community, questioning why similar expectations are not imposed on men.

While she desires a family and a life partner, she takes pride in her independence.

Living with her supportive parents, Minreet values the relationship and appreciates their encouragement to speak out against the stigma of divorce and being single at an older age.

She remains optimistic that the right time will come to meet a suitable partner.

Determined to make a difference, she actively supports women facing similar challenges, aiming to empower them, emphasise their uniqueness, and encourage self-love.

Sania Khan

5 South Asian Women Breaking the Divorce Taboo

Sania Khan was a 29-year-old Pakistani American woman who openly shared her painful divorce experience on TikTok, highlighting the community’s disapproval, lack of emotional support, and societal pressure.

Sania faced stigma from her South Asian Muslim community after leaving a troubled marriage.

She gained support on TikTok, where she became a voice for women facing marriage trauma and divorce stigma in the South Asian community.

The couple had a troubled marriage built on lies and manipulation, with Ahmad having long-standing mental health issues.

Sania opened up about her unhappy marriage on TikTok and amassed over 20,000 followers at the time.

Unfortunately, in a high-profile case that reverberated throughout the world, Sania was found fatally shot by her estranged husband, Raheel Ahmad, in Chicago.

He returned to supposedly salvage the marriage but ended up killing her, highlighting the dangers faced by South Asian women in abusive relationships.

Upon the police’s arrival, Ahmad shot himself.

The medical examiner’s office ruled Khan’s death as a homicide and Ahmad’s death as a suicide.

The incident demanded global attention.

Neha Gill, executive director of the human rights organisation, Apna Ghar, expressed that South Asians grapple with the issue of stigmatising divorces, prioritising family honour over individual safety.

Sania’s close friends, including Gabriella Bordó and Jessica Henderson-Eubanks, recall her bravery in sharing her struggles on social media.

They express the need for a deeper reflection within the community on such issues.

Sania was considering obtaining a restraining order against her estranged husband, and her friends encouraged her to do so.

They believe her ex-husband’s actions were premeditated, indicating a potentially dangerous situation.

Although her death was a worrying example of how extreme the divorce taboo can be, Sania still stands as a testament to the power of outspoken individuals.

Her story illustrates the importance of safety for women and remains a poignant story in destigmatising divorce.

As we navigate the shifting sands of societal norms, the stories of these South Asian women breaking down the divorce taboo resonate as a testament to the evolving dynamics within the community.

By challenging the stigma surrounding divorce, they are influencing a broader conversation about individual rights and freedom.

In acknowledging and celebrating these narratives, we stand witness to a subtle yet significant transformation. 

In the quiet strength of these women, we find a collective courage that is gradually reshaping the narrative, making space for a more inclusive and understanding society.

Balraj is a spirited Creative Writing MA graduate. He loves open discussions and his passions are fitness, music, fashion, and poetry. One of his favourite quotes is “One day or day one. You decide.”

Images courtesy of Instagram & Facebook.

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