x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Marriage is not a tick on a checklist of our lives

Call me crazy, but marriage should not be a publicity stunt, nor a tick-box on a life experience checklist.

I'm feeling cheesed off with the sisterhood this week. I know we're not supposed to get "catty" about other women, but this week, I just need to get it off my chest.

Of course, you'll immediately know that I'm talking about the American reality TV star Kim Kardashian. Of course you've heard of her. You know, famous for, er, well, being famous and doing publicity-generating things to make her more famous. She filed for divorce only 72 days after getting married.

This wasn't any kind of arranged marriage, selected by third parties, introduced on the wedding night and subsequently found unsuitable. No, Kardashian had been dating him for almost a year before they tied the knot. So there weren't any surprises waiting to leap out at her. What did she discover in the handful of days after the nuptials that she didn't know before? It all seems a little fast to have broken it off, given that she knew him beforehand. The acres of media coverage certainly bear out rumours that it was just all a fabulous publicity stunt.

From one extreme of marriage to the other. This time it's the Obedient Wives Club that is back in the news trying to keep marriages going longer by getting wives to be more submissive as well as offer up more sex. They have just opened a London chapter of their controversial organisation, which was set up in Malaysia earlier this year.

I've hung back from writing about them before, thinking - nay, hoping - that they would just fade away into a quick, forgettable obscurity, a bit like Kardashian's marriage. But oh no, it's on the rise. The club says that it wants to put an end to social problems such as prostitution and gambling by showing Muslim wives how to be submissive and keep their spouses happy in the bedroom. If he is straying, indulging in naughty activities, or just not doing his bit in the marriage, the solution according to the Obedient Wives is to engage in more bedroom antics.

Now, we're all adults here and there is no need to be prudish. The bedroom is a great place to strengthen a marriage, and there's no harm in encouraging partners to be more sensitive towards each other. But if a man is out there indulging in some extramarital hanky-panky, or spending some bucks at a local gambling den, then it's not the wife's fault - it's his.

Last week the club published a manual to be given to wives on Islamic sex. It was banned by the government in Malaysia who said it could cause confusion among readers about what is acceptable.

The club says it will share the book internally within members. Since this is aimed at women, I wonder if there is a similar one for men? Or better still, I'd like to see the husbands given manuals on cooking and housekeeping. Otherwise you will find us lay-deez will be out on the town, because our husbands are not looking after us properly. We'll give you more than 72 days to prove yourselves though.

Call me crazy, but marriage should not be a publicity stunt, nor a tick-box on a life experience checklist. It does not work well in short bursts, but only after long-term investment. It does not work when you think the other person's lack of involvement is your fault.

Sadly, this week women from East and West have both spectacularly diminished marriage by reducing it to just sex and money. How disappointing. Message to the sisterhood: must do better.

Shelina Zahra Janmohamed is the author of Love in a Headscarf and writes a blog at www.spirit21.co.uk