Islamabad: Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai’s views on whether marriage is necessary for two people in a relationship has invited an avalanche of criticism in Pakistan, where she has long gained a reputation as controversy’s favourite child with her outspokenness. In an interview to the British Vogue magazine, Malala responded to a question on the institution of marriage by wondering why a relationship could not be just a “partnership”.
“Thinking about relationships, you know, on social media, everyone’s sharing their relationship stories, and you get worried… if you can trust someone or not, and how can you be sure,” she said. “I still don’t understand why people have to get married. If you want to have a person in your life, why do you have to sign marriage papers; why can’t it just be a partnership?” she said. The remarks immediately landed her in hot waters in Pakistan, with lawmakers, clerics, academicians as well a section of the citizenry accusing her of peddling a western narrative. Most viewed her statements as suggestive of negating the concept of having a family with a “legitimate partner”.
Soon after Malala’s statement went viral, a prominent cleric from Peshawar, Mufti Shahabuddin Popalzai, took to Twitter to ask her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, to provide a clarification. Malala’s father responded soon after, “Respected Mufti Popalzai Sahib, there is no truth in it. The media and social media have taken an excerpt... out of context and shared it with their own interpretations.”
Later, the controversy echoed in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assembly. “The government needs to probe whether the education activist made those marriage remarks or not,” a PPP lawmaker said. However, lawmakers from PM Imran Khan’s PTI defended Malala and requested not to turn the matter into a controversy.