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TitleUnderstanding How Izzat Impacts The Lived Experiences of Young Muslim Pakistani Women in the
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Understanding How Izzat Impacts
The Lived Experiences of Young
Muslim Pakistani Women in the UK:
A Phenomenological Approach.

This thesis is submitted in partial fulfilment of the

requirements of the School of Psychology, University

of East London Professional Doctorate in Counselling


Word count: 30,973

(Excluding references and appendices)

March 2015

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“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in
a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others”

- Nelson Mandela

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Shamima: “…She was young, maybe in her late twenties and erm, speaking to a friend,

I remember, they thought that she, you know, she wanted a boy, there was pressure,

she had three or four girls and there was a pressure on her to have a boy, and she knew

that she was expecting boy, you know this time round. But erm... Didn’t stop her from,

killing herself…” (Shamima, Lines 712 – 716 ).

In the example that Shamima refers to, there is a sense that some young Pakistani

Muslim women might become self-blaming or over critical of themselves because of

their perceived failure to produce male children to carry the family name onto he next

generation which then is regarded as justification for self-harm or attempting suicide.

As seen earlier, support from the family, friends or community can help to maintain

emotional well-being. However, it was understood through what some participants

reported that young Pakistani Muslim women experience isolation and could resort to

harming themselves in the absence of such types of support. It would appear that self-

harm would be as a consequence of what has been discussed in the sub-theme of

‘Tolerating distress’ whereby the distress becomes intolerable and such strategies

prove ineffective.

Annie: “ …Erm…But I think, I can imagine them feeling awful and feeling really, really

hurt. Especially, if you haven’t got anyone to turn to that can, that can help you…

Researcher: “Hmm”

Annie: “Then I think you would, feel a bit lost. Erm…Some people might go into self-

harm, some people might go into, erm, doing things, they might just think, oh my God,

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is this really worth it for instance. Especially for some people, that just got the cultural

thing going on in their head….”

Annie: “… I think, it’s a horrible thing to be going through and they probably would be

feeling really lost…” (Annie, Lines 449 – 480 ).

Annie illustrated here, that young Pakistani Muslim women may self-harm or attempt

suicide in the absence of support from others. In addition, the perception that their

personal or social circumstances will not change, together with becoming increasingly

hopeless may also place these individuals at risk.

3.2.6 Summary

The theme illustrates some of the tensions participants experienced, or witnessed

others experiencing, in upholding izzat and tolerating what could be perceived as

restrictive rules. In particular, it provides examples of how the aim of respecting family

and culture can mean the abuse and distress of individual women is in effect ignored

or seemingly sanctioned as a necessary condition of maintaining the rules of izzat.

Hence, female qualities of endurance, passivity may be highly valued leaving Pakistani

women in a no-win situation requiring them to put up with unacceptable treatment

rather than be shunned for contravening cultural norms of appropriate female

behaviour. Participants were able to identify how upholding izzat impacted the types

of strategies that they would implement when they experienced emotional distress.

The excerpts illustrate participants’ understanding that self-harm and attempted

suicide was a strategy that other Pakistani Muslim women would consider if emotional

distress became unmanageable and they were unable to access family support and

experienced isolation from others. Although managing distress and not disclosing

personal experiences of distress enabled some of the participants (and the individuals

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Mother’s carrying the izzat

Fathers discipline

And er, I, I, I didn’t, I didn’t feel it was that much, I don’t think, but I felt the pressure from my
mum… Rather than the actual izzat was thing which, that she felt, the izzat.

Shamima: I’d say, it was from my... Mum, then when I got married, my ex

was a bit into that as well.

Cerisse: Ok.

Shamima: Erm, because he had come over from Pakistan and he was looking to get married,…

they thought I was out of control, and I wasn’t at all, I was stroppy

when my Dad was being, rude to my Mum, you know I would tell him to

shut up and...

Cerisse: Hmm.

Shamima: And leave Mum alone, and they thought this was, you know,

the worst possible thing anyone could do and erm, so I, so she thought I

was off her hands, that it would be easier for her to cope, maybe...

Ellen: ...Dads are there to keep you in check maybe. I think that’s why one of the reasons

why, people look down a bit, well my friends Mum’s used to, because O didn’t have the Dad


Cerisse: Hmm.

Cerisse: Even the religion?

Beth: Growing up. Just growing up when I was in Pakistan. It was like, my Dad

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would say. You know, you’re older now, you’re going to the market, cover up a bit

more, because the men will kind of, they just a little bit perverted. Just look at you

like that, that kind of thing. Don’t wear your jeans and stuff when you’re going

out. Just wear loose clothing. Take a shawl over yourself. That kind of thing.

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