‘آپ کو کیا پتہ آپ کی بیٹی پیپر کے بہانے کہاں جاتی ہے۔‘
The moment she heard these words, her body froze. She couldn’t help but think – is it actually that easy? Wajeeha Arooj was completing her masters in English at Punjab University, when one event turned the entire course of her life.
She had prepared so hard for her exam. She appeared, attempted it but one minor error changed everything for her. The university wrongly marked her absent for one exam and she flunked it. When she confronted the university administration, rather than accepting their fault, they used the easiest and most convenient weapon used in Pakistani society to shut a woman up – gossiping about her character.
The university official instead said to her father to ”keep an eye” on her activities and know about her whereabouts on the exam day.
“The university crushed my dreams and it never apologised. No money could compensate for the damage their act did to my honour and reputation in society,” said Wajiha Arooj.BBC
What followed were the speculations and gossips: Whom was Arooj with? Did she go out alone? Did she lie to her parents? And, perhaps, was there a man involved?
Slowly the rumors started spreading. Her family, her friends and even her mother – she could not face any of them. Speaking to an international reporting source, Wajiha told that even her mother started to look at her weirdly.
“At one point I was so distressed I even considered committing suicide,” she said.
Her own father represented her in the court:
Rather than sitting quitely, Wajiha decided to take her case to the court. With the support of her immediate family, she took the university to Lahore High Court. Her father, who himself is a practicing lawyer, represented her.
The university officials produced her exam answer sheet in court four months later, putting all blame on the clerical staff for not marking her presence. She ultimately won the battle in 2017, when the court ordered the university to pay her 800,000 rupees to compensate for the damage.
Though she received all the support throughout her legal battle, her parents were concerned about her future and decided to marry her off quickly.
“My parents thought it better that I get married soon so that I did not have to go to the university again and face embarrassing questions from people,” she said.
With her three children, Arooj is living a happy life in Canada. But, her dream of continuing her studies and joining Civil Services could be fulfilled. However, her sisters lived her dream by getting higher education, as one of them is a serving judicial officer.
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