The Star recently reported on the existence of “Begumpura” neighborhoods in Ontario. “Begumpura,” translated from Urdu as “the place where women live,” refers to neighborhoods where immigrant women live with their families. The areas are usually occupied by women of South Asian origin whose husbands work in the Middle East.
The title “Colony of wives” evokes the image of South Asian Muslim women living in harems and impatiently waiting for their “male guardians.” The article, which highlights two South Asian Muslim women and their children, reports on the challenges that these women face. Depression and anxiety are cited as some of the most recurring issues and, despite high levels of education among some of these women, they are depicted as completely dependent on their husbands. According to The Star, women who live in long-distance relationships usually gather in the “Begumpura” neighborhoods, which have earned the nickname of “colony of wives,” because they are unable to live by themselves.
According to the article, Pakistani and Indian women have a hard time living on their own in Canada and raising their children alone. However, the reasoning provided in this piece is that in “those” countries, men take care of everything that has to do with the public sphere; therefore, women are initially unable to pay bills or even attend the doctor because they do not know how. These wives are constantly portrayed as women who are fearful about the outside world.
On top of that, single parenthood seems to be a challenge—not because raising children alone is a challenge in itself, but because the article reports that these women are constantly struggling with the emotional baggage of having a spouse living abroad and the children questioning the long-distance arrangement.
By definition, in this article Muslim South Asian marriages seem to have the men at the top being the breadwinners, and the women at the bottom taking care of the house and the children. Yet, according to The Star, some women are able to engage in Canadian society in a way that they would not be able to do if their husbands were present, and this is a matter of celebration.
While the article may be making some valid points on the challenges (and benefits) faced by women in long-distance relationships (not only Muslim women from South Asian origin), it also tends to dilute the immigrant experience.