Journal Article

Unhappy Husbands: Masculinity and Migration in Transnational Pakistani Marriages

Published 1 January 2005 / By COMPAS Communications

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This article, based on fieldwork in the Pakistani Punjab and with predominantly Punjabi families in Bristol, is concerned with the common practice of British Pakistanis marrying Pakistani nationals. Informants stress the risks that such marriages hold for women, but this research highlights the social, cultural, and economic difficulties faced by migrant husbands, comparing their position to that of the ghar damad (house son-in-law). Whilst women are instructed from a young age on the adjustments the move to their husband’s household will entail, male migrants are often unprepared for this situation. A lack of local kin support can combine with the culturally unusual proximity of the wife’s family to restructure gendered household relations of power. Frustrations experienced by such men may help to explain instances where such marriages have ended in the husband’s violence, desertion, or taking a second wife, but the model of the unhappy ghar damad is also significant in understanding the experiences of many other migrant men and their British wives.