The state of women’s rights in Pakistan has been a roller-coaster ride. Being a Muslim country, Pakistan adheres to the laws provided by Islam. Islam, in turn, acknowledges the rights and privileges of women in society. But that hasn’t always been the case in this highly patriarchal country. Pakistani women may have only started to enjoy a better status than the past, but it still has a long way to go in terms of gender equality.
Now if you think being a woman is hard in a male-dominated society, imagine being a plus-size woman. Shamed for their weight by their own family members, the plus-size women of Pakistan are no longer afraid to speak out against bullying in hopes of putting an end to it for good.
Plus-Size Women of Pakistan Band Together to Fight Bullying
When MBBS student Zehra Husayn was eight, her PE teacher loudly exclaimed “Moti bhaag gayee!” in front of the whole class. [The fat girl ran away.] Husayn had simply asked to use the washroom.
Body-image issues are a global concern. It is primarily shaped by what society deems as acceptable. For example, “beautiful” women are presented as skinny and svelte in the media. Images of these women are plastered over TV screens, billboards, social media feeds, and fashion magazines all over the world. This kind of advertising has only managed to shape a narrow-minded view of beauty.
Huge strides have been taken to counteract body image–related issues. But for the women of Pakistan, that progress is taking longer than they’ve hoped.
Instead of waiting for that change to come, Zehra decided to take matters into her own hands. She founded the Facebook page, Plus-Size Pakistan, a support organization that helps remind Pakistani women that they are beautiful and confident despite the fact society says otherwise.
Fat-shaming often starts at home. Relatives telling curvy women “You’ll never get married because of your weight” or “You’ll never bear children because of your weight” is a normal occurrence in a Pakistani household. So gaining support from other women who understand their situation is empowering.
“The struggles of a plus-size person can be better understood by people in the same boat,” said PSP member Yumna Sadiq. “Many of my plus-size friends aren’t happy with their bodies. Since attitudes are contagious, this group changes that by encouraging women to accept and love themselves.”
Women who feel bounded by body-image issues face an enormous amount of stress and pressure. This can often lead to one damaging their own mental and physical health. In fact, the root cause of eating disorders is often the pressure to look thin.
Being plus-size has often been perceived as unhealthy. But UK-based dietitian Fareeha Jay says otherwise. “Being plus-sized and being obese are two completely different things. A person who is categorized as being plus-sized can be way healthier than the person who isn’t.” To put it simply, judging a person’s weight won’t help you determine their state of health.
With the rest of the world continuing their fight against body shaming, women like Zehra are leading the pack for Pakistani women. Hopefully, her efforts, along with that of many Pakistani women who understand her struggle, will elicit change in the country.