Joint Family System-Horrors of this Culture - by Aatqa Ali

"The fortune of being born in a joint family system ruined my childhood to the core. I got bullied, mentally tortured, and physically abused while living around those who were supposed to protect and nurture me for my good."

"I had never thought that living in a joint family system after marriage was going to be so challenging for my mental peace. I am not even allowed to plan a single dine-out alone with my husband. They criticize me for staying in the room alone when everybody else is home. My personal space is restricted in the vicinity of a small room, that too under the scrutiny of in-laws."

"Just because my cousins are all doctors and engineers, I had to give up on my dream of becoming an airforce officer. I was abandoned, but no one cares as long as I retain their family honour."

Did any of the above stories sound familiar to you? These are a few of the real-life experiences of people who are the victims of the culture of a toxic joint family system. While choosing this subject to write on, I was aware of the criticism for correlating the joint family system with such unfortunate personal scenarios. In Pakistan, one of the main cultural pillars of our social system lies in the inherent legacy of the joint family system followed religiously for ages. Therefore, it has become such a blindly followed and accepted tradition that people refuse to discuss its dark side.

In our culture, the joint family system is seen as the ultimate way of having a successful family status in society. We grew up listening to the repetitive statement that the joint family system is the beauty of eastern culture that brings harmony, love, and peace among a family, but the truth seems to be otherwise. A joint family system was always believed to come with the benefit where both men and women got emotional, financial, and moral support from other family members, but do we ever consider the cost these favours come with? Call it irony or Cultural Revolution, today's youth shows more inclination towards an independent living system where they get to enjoy their personal space and freedom to live on their own terms.

However, neither am I trying to invalidate the goodness of a joint family system nor advocate the privileges of a separate family system because each has its own pros and cons. But where the problem lies is that people are blindfolded, imposing this family setup on the next generation without amending or even accepting its flaws.

Whether it's Pakistan or any other Asian country, the joint family system comes from the background of a patriarchal mindset. This family concept is often based on male supremacy who is the only decision-maker for even the tiniest matter of the family. And as I discussed earlier, the joint family system possesses great aspects of social and financial benefits for its people; this one-man supreme monarchy often comes at the cost of undermining the individuality of others, which is what makes the joint family system difficult when people are denied their individual rights, freedom of expression, and personal space for decision-making.

With the increase in urban expansion, societal pressure, and economic instability, young people are inclined more towards segregated family units. However, in this revolutionary age, the youth has developed new ways of living rather than sticking to the traditional ones. And while change always looks good, such things are not thoroughly welcomed in the joint family system.