Last week, Malala Yousafzai announced her marriage to Asser Malik. People were very happy for her because Asser is hot, he seems like a good guy and he looks like he adores her. People were happy for Asser because he’s married to a cool, amazing, Nobel-Prize-winning lady. But of course we all brought up Malala’s interview in British Vogue over the summer, where she talked sh-t about marriage about how she didn’t want to get hitched. Well, Malala heard people bringing up her marriage views and she would like to set the record straight: her qualms about marriage were justified because she has seen how girls are basically forced into marriage as teens. She wrote a short essay for British Vogue about this and let me tell you, she can barely contain the fact that she met a hot piece, fell in love and it rocked her world.
She’s a feminist: “I do not want to get married… or at least not until I’m 35.” I heard myself blurt out those words – reactionary, half-consciously – many times over the last few years when asked about relationships. I wasn’t against marriage, but I was cautious about its practice. I questioned the patriarchal roots of the institution, the compromises women are expected to make after the wedding, and how laws regarding relationships are influenced by cultural norms and misogyny in many corners of the world. I feared losing my humanity, my independence, my womanhood – my solution was to avoid getting married at all.
Child brides: I couldn’t call myself a feminist if I didn’t have reservations. According to Girls Not Brides, 12 million girls aged under 18 get married every year. For most of these girls, marriage is not a fulfilling partnership – it is servitude. Growing up in the north of Pakistan, girls were taught that marriage was a substitute for an independent life. If you don’t study, get a job and build a place for yourself, you must get married soon. You failed your exams? You can’t find work? Get married!
Another way: With education, awareness and empowerment, we can start to redefine the concept of marriage and the structure of relationships, along with many other social norms and practices. Culture is made by people – and people can change it too. My conversations with my friends, mentors and my now partner Asser helped me consider how I could have a relationship – a marriage – and remain true to my values of equality, fairness and integrity.
She’s known Asser since 2018: In the summer of 2018, Asser was visiting friends at Oxford and we crossed paths. He worked in cricket, so I immediately had a lot to discuss with him. He liked my sense of humour. We became best friends. We found we had common values and enjoyed each other’s company. We stood by each other in moments of happiness and disappointment. Through our individual ups and downs, we talked and listened to each other. And when words failed, I sent him a link to our horoscope compatibility, hoping the stars could help reinforce our connection. In Asser, I found a best friend and companion. I still don’t have all the answers for the challenges facing women – but I believe that I can enjoy friendship, love and equality in marriage. So, on Tuesday, 9 November, we celebrated our nikkah at home with our families and closest friends in Birmingham.
You absolutely KNOW that she was head over heels when she gets to the part about sending him horoscopes!! She was anti-marriage until she found a hot guy! And that’s totally fine! We’ve all been there, Malala. It’s completely hilarious. I also think it’s cool that Malala and Asser have known each other for years now, and she makes it sound like she did some of the pursuit. “I don’t want to get married, now here are some horoscopes which show that we are meant to be.”
Malala was also recently on the Andrew Marr Show and she once again emphasized that her anti-marriage sentiments were legitimate because of child-marriage and the “imbalance of power” which comes with so many marriages: “I was not against marriage, I had concerns about marriage and that is true for many girls around the world who have seen reports about child marriage and reports about forced marriage.” She also said that it’s important for women to question “these customs [which] are influenced by patriarchy and misogyny. So you have to question the systems that we are living in and we have to question the status quo but I am lucky that I found a person who understands my values.”
Photos courtesy of Malala’s social media.