"Sex is equally meant for women as men."
Pakistan is one of the highest porn consuming countries on the planet. Despite sex before marriage being considered a taboo, there is no doubt of how normalised it is becoming.
The laws laid down by the government during the reign of late Zia-ul-Haq (former President of Pakistan) stated that any couple guilty of having sex before marriage be stoned to death, or whipped in public.
During his time, the cries of women who were raped went unheard. They were accused of fornication instead and put behind bars.
However, with the spinning wheel of time, the strictness in maintaining these laws has become lighter and less aggressive.
In addition, for some having a sexual relationship prior to marriage is considered ‘normal and ordinary’ now – be it still with an element of fear and cautiousness.
We explore this ‘normalisation’ of sex before marriage, including those very much against it.
A ‘Harmless’ Act
Sex before marriage in Pakistan is a bit like the popular saying: “What you don’t know won’t hurt you.”
It is considered as a ‘harmless’ act in Pakistan by those indulging in it, as long as it is shrouded in secrecy, and kept hidden.
Saima, a Lahore student, says:
“There are many young Pakistani people engaging in relationships and have sex too. But without keeping it as a major secret, those doing it would never survive in a country like Pakistan.
“Many girls who are in all women colleges are known to ‘experiment’ amongst themselves too. Labelling it as a bit of ‘masti’ or ‘fun’.
“Peer pressure, elite classes, curiosity and those who know they just can, especially men, are the most common doing it.”
The disturbing aspect here is that although the law and religion clearly state that the male and female accused of adultery must both face the consequences, we see evident gender-based inequality in this case.
Amara, a resident of Islamabad, says:
“My cousin had sex with me against my will. Although I gave in, thinking that he will let me go if I let him do what he wanted, it was still without my consent.
“I became a victim of depression after that. My marriage was fixed with him, but I could not marry someone who raped me, so I ended up telling my parents about it.
“They beat me up, saying there must be my approval involved in it. My cousin was spared, with him being a male dominant of society and all.”
Sexual inequality is leading to multiple problems in Pakistani society.
A boy aged 16-17 may feel a sense of embarrassment if he has not had sex by that age. Whereas a woman who is not allowed to think this way may still be a target for a sexual relationship.
In Pakistan, as in most parts of the world, a boy can have a girlfriend. But the term ‘girlfriend’ in Pakistan is not the same as the west. A relationship between the opposite sexes is the most well-kept secret ever.
Most people are familiar that according to the main faith of Pakistan, one is not allowed to keep a boyfriend or girlfriend. The law states that both of the sexes should have ‘nikkah (Marriage), before being in contact with the other.
Despite knowing it is forbidden, many boys spend a lot of time pursuing and persuading girls to engage in sexual relationships. Those that agree eventually, do have sex, even though it is the girl will repeatedly tell the boy that they should not be doing it.
But if the relationship ever comes out in the open, the consequences for the girl are always bigger and greater than the boy.
Alishba, a college student in Pakistan reveals what happened to her:
“I fell in love with a guy I came in contact with on Facebook. Fortunately, he was also from Islamabad.
“We dated for a year before he decided that we should get physical. I did not want to do it, but he started fighting over it. So we did it.
“After a few months, one of my neighbours saw me on the bike with him and told my mother.
“As we are not allowed to keep boyfriends, she threw a tantrum, and I was prevented from going to college.
“I managed to secretly contact my boyfriend through others and pleaded to him to send a marriage proposal, to which he refused bluntly. ‘If you can sleep with me, you can sleep with anyone’ were his words.”
Being a Virgin
Another important factor is that if a girl is not found to be a virgin on her wedding night, she is accused of having sex before marriage. In such circumstances, she is often divorced.
This would then prohibit her from getting educated or married. This is due to the dishonour and shame that she has brought to her family.
In Pakistan, on the one hand, some men seek pleasure to satisfy their needs prior getting married. But then when it comes to marriage, the very same men demand a pure and untouched virgin for themselves.
Is this a case of double standards?
Mahira, a resident of Lahore, Pakistan, who favours remaining a virgin before marriage says:
“No one would buy a juice box if its seal is broken, then why would someone marry a girl if she has lost her virginity?
“This is what our culture teaches us, my sisters, please keep your dignity intact.”
Iqra, a resident of Islamabad, Pakistan, equally agrees, and values what virginity represents as she mentions:
“We are supposed to save our virginity for our husbands.”
“Because we have been taught this since childhood that our bodies are the possession of our husbands, and we are supposed to save it for them.
“If we don’t, that would be like using someone else’s property without his approval.”
However, conversely, the experience of Anushay, a resident of Rawalpindi in Pakistan, has left her having sexual affairs, following her marriage and loss of virginity. She states:
“I got engaged when I was in ninth grade. Two years ago, I and my fiancé (who is also my cousin) had sex with each other.
“Because the engagement was my parents’ decision, I wasn’t really interested in him but went along with it all. But since he took my virginity, I have slept with many guys ever since.
“I now do whatever I want to the extent I do not have to explain myself to anyone anymore because I am no longer a virgin.”
Hymen Reconstruction and Fake Blood Pills
Many Pakistani women are going under the knife to have their hymen reconstructed, a procedure known as Hymenoplasty. This is often after losing their virginity. It is common especially in the upper class and high society.
Adverts for such clinical procedures are popular in cosmopolitan Pakistani cities such as Lahore, Islamabad and Karachi.
The costs for having a hymen reconstruction surgery can cost anything between Pakistani Rs. 40,000 (approx. £2,200) to a million (approx. £5,600).
Unfortunately, middle or lower class women and girls cannot afford it. So to assist with simulating the ‘first night’ there are pills available which cost up to Pakistani Rs. 1000 (£5).
These pills are inserted into the vagina, and as they break during intercourse, they release fake blood. Therefore, making their male partner believe that his wife is a virgin.
How effective they are, very much depends on the belief that the act was legit.
Prostitution and Bribery
Prostitution and use of sex workers maybe blatantly forbidden in Pakistan in terms of law and culture. But sex workers are still very popular, despite discretion playing an important role.
Therefore, those seeking sexual services can find prostitutes if they really want. Someone, somewhere, will tell you where such women or men offer their services.
Even the police, due to being on a low pay scale, take bribery for not pressing charges against illegal forms of sexual intercourse in Pakistan.
Fahad, a resident of Lahore relates to his experience of using a prostitute:
“Me and my friend were strolling in the area where we knew that we will encounter such women.
“We were finally approached by a beautiful female. I stopped a rickshaw, and had intercourse with the woman inside it, while my friend kept a watch outside.
“When we finished and stepped out, we saw a policeman walking our way and later found out that the woman and the police officer pre-planned this.
“We had to offer a large sum to them to save our necks.”
The normality of men having premarital and even post-marital sex is proven by the existence of Heera Mandi in Lahore.
Everyone is aware that it is a place, which is famous as a red light district area situated in Lahore, Pakistan. This where prostitutes live and practice their services as sex workers.
Due to the fact that it is clearly illegal for such a place to exist in Pakistan, the women working there completely deny that they work as prostitutes. They claim that they only dance, sing and perform for their customers as mujra dancers.
This is a common front for sex workers in many parts of the country. Promoting themselves as dancers and performers, many do offer sexual services in secret.
Junaid, a resident of Rawalpindi in Pakistani, describes his experience of Heera Mandi:
“Me and my college fellows went on a trip to Lahore, and having certain needs, we just had to visit this place [Heera Mandi].
“We came across a prostitute, who charged us Pakistani Rs.1000 (£5.50), for just a ten-minute sexual encounter.”
“Our male teacher went with us as well.”
Usually, these women are guarded by pimps, some even armed. Their job is to provide them with customers so that they can earn a livelihood.
Many of the sex workers are from poor backgrounds and end up in this profession for the rest of their lives. This is simply to have a roof over their head and to even have a family under such circumstances.
Where and How?
It is evident from Junaid’s experience, how easily some Pakistani males can seek pleasure, while females are scandalised for doing so.
However, there are cases where Pakistani women do indulge in sexual acts as well. But very discreetly.
For one thing, hotel rooms are extremely costly, whereas the cheaper ones are not safe. They cannot use their homes out of fear from their parents and close neighbours
And there is no tradition found of moving out of the house when you reach a certain age in Pakistan. So sex at home is out of the question.
However, sex in cars is becoming very common. Couples tend to have sexual encounters in cars which have blackened windows or curtains.
Amir, a resident of Islamabad, Pakistan recalls how his friend and his girlfriend had sex in the car:
“My friend forbade me to look at the back as they both stripped down to their underclothes, throwing their garments in the front while I sat at the driving seat.
“After finishing, my friend’s girlfriend asked me to pass her underwear which she had thrown in the heat of the moment.”
Romana, a resident of Islamabad, Pakistan relates:
“My boyfriend took me to his flat in sector G-7 Islamabad, where we decided to have sex. It was a very secure and convenient place.
“We spent three hours in bed with each other and then discreetly left. We did not raise any suspicion of what we were doing.”
The illegality and strictness in the country make it hard for young couples to have sex. But this does not change the fact that premarital sex doe exist.
This is a major reason why the older generation advises the young to marry as soon as they reach the age of maturity in line with tradition, culture and beliefs.
Although some elements of Pakistani society are changing their attitudes and outlook on sex before marriage. Women too are not shying away from it, especially if they can have the opportunity.
Tehmina, a feminist residing in Islamabad says:
“I don’t care what anyone says.
“Sex is equally meant for women as men. It should be enjoyed by both.
“I see no reason why a woman in this age should protect her chastity and remain pure while the man that she will marry puts his nose anywhere he likes.
“I am a non-virgin, and my future husband can either accept that or just walk away!”
Due to a trend of late marriages becoming more common in Pakistani society, it can be said that sex before marriage is definitely “a thing” in Pakistan.
However, besides this, there is also the growing issue of ‘extra-marital sex’ and the existence of adulterous affairs.
This has become really common in the elite classes of Pakistani society and amongst more open-minded people.
As in any scenario of adultery, this tends to happen mostly when the sexual expectations of a spouse are not being satisfied or fulfilled.
Surprisingly, married Pakistani women are engaging in affairs a lot more than realised.
The basic reason for this is that men are more sexually active when they are newly-wed. They normally have sex very frequently in the early stages of married life. This results in increased sexual desire in their wives.
So, when sexual activity in the marriage decreases and the women are not sexually satisfied, they will look for other ways in order to seek satiety.
Many married women mostly find younger men. Especially, those that will show them attention and affection, and who are also looking to seek pleasure for themselves.
Since many women are already non-virgins by then, it is difficult for the husbands to find out from a physical perspective. But if they are found out, things do not necessarily end well.
Conversely, there are those women as well who will turn a blind eye to their husbands having an affair. They see it as a ‘male thing’ and nothing extraordinary.
Therefore, from this insight, it can be concluded that sex before marriage is more common than expected. Having said that it is still not accepted as a ‘norm’ by Pakistani society at large.
Those participating in sex before marriage are doing so very discreetly and seldom discuss it openly. Simply because a country like Pakistan will not accept such profanity or open attitude towards sex in this manner.