Women and Pakistan: A critical review

WOMEN play a vital role in the prosperity and progress of any country and act as a wheel of society that is essential to run the society smoothly. Almost 49¬% of Pakistan’s total population constitute of women. Being a heterogeneous state and exhibiting the amalgamation of various cultures, languages and ideologies of life; the role of women in Pakistan and their participation in different spheres of society vary from culture to culture and region to region. Moreover, the contribution of women in any field is largely dependent on the mindset of family to which she belongs. If we keep in view the state laws and policies, it appears that various initiatives have been undertaken to achieve and promote gender equity, and thus women are guaranteed equal right as men. To mention a few; the right to vote, right to education, right to employment and right to apply in various fields like bureaucracy, army, medicine, etc, where special quota for women have been reserved, is an indication of the efforts on part of the state to bring the women at par with the men. Women of Pakistan are contributing in every field, be it science and technology, business, forces, education, civil services, you name it. Having mentioned their role in every field, the importance of education and the need to their contribution to the nation can be underscored. As the well-known African proverb rightly suggests, “if you educate a man, you educate an individual but if you educate a woman you educate a family (nation)”; the sentiment expressed remains a powerful message underscoring the importance of educating women for the benefit of society as a whole. When it comes to the right to education, a major chunk of women population in Pakistan is still out of schools. Due to various cultural constraints and prevalent stereotypes and taboos, women, particularly in the more conservative and rural societities, are confined to their homes. Although, over the time the mindset of people have transformed and there is a significant portion of population who prioritize education equally for their sons and daughters and motivate their daughters to seek an independent life, further awareness and facilities are needed to improve the education status of women. Amongst the hurdles for women in pursuance of education and contribution to the society, the insecure environment remain very crucial. We have seen an exodus in trends of harassment, rape, and sexual exploitation of women when they are out for work or education. Although, state laws are strict when dealing with these vices but lack of implementation have led to increasing number of incidents where females of all ages, from school going girls to married women, are subjected to rape and killing. There are also many women who have been killed in the name of honour and many who face domestic violence. According to a poll conducted by Thomas Reuters Foundation, Pakistan is ranked as the sixth most dangerous country for women. Many in Pakistan blame the state authorities for the recent surge in violence as they have failed to implement the laws in spirit which allows the criminals to go unpunished. Be it 27 years old Noor Muqaddam who was murdered in cold blood; the woman raped in front of her children and left helpless on motorway; the girl sexually assaulted in F9 park and preached to stay indoor after the sunset; or the bus hostess raped by the guard at gun point; the list of crimes perpetrated against women is very long. There are many more cases which been reported while many have gone unnoticed. According to the statistics, over 3,987 women were murdered across the country from 2019 to 2021, while 10 thousand 517 cases of rape against women were registered. The growing violence against women in country has been attributed to a number of factors including lack of effective education, lack of awareness, poverty and uncontrolled misogyny in country. The free access to various unethical internet sites is also a culprit as it triggers the sexual desire and society witnessed the soaring in rape and harassment cases. The prevailing condition and psyche of men have made it difficult for women to go outside of their home. As a nation it’s really alarming for us as this treatment of women contradicts with Quaid’s vision who wanted women to stand shoulder to shoulder with men, as he suggested “No nation can ever be worthy of its existence that cannot take its women along with the men. No struggle can ever succeed without women participating side by side with men. There are two powers in the world; one is the sword and the other is the pen. There is a great competition and rivalry between the two. There is a third power stronger than both, that of the women.” Furthermore, this state has been found in the name of Islam, which also provide equal rights to women and has made education equally obligatory for women as men. Unfortunately, many countrymen lack the true understanding of Islamic teachings and consider women as their subordinate, with no free will of their own and treat them as entities who are born only to be exploited by men. Therefore this issue calls for a resolution at the grass root level. The primary responsibility falls upon the parents who must treat their sons and daughters as equal and educate their sons on how every women should be treated and respected. The curriculum at primary level must be devised in a way where students should be taught about good and bad touch; also, it’s very necessary to give sex education to young boys and girls in their teen age and enlighten them regarding the changes that their bodies go through. Besides, there must be awareness at all levels to educate men to respect their fellow women. Strong regulation of internet and social media should be enabled and people spreading unethical content must be punished. The state must devise policies to stop the surge of violence against women. The culprits must be awarded with strict penalties in order to make an example out of them. Pakistan as a state will only prosper when its women will have a safe environment where they’ll be able to enjoy their basic rights; such as right of education and right to work. Although, many women are contributing in various field but a major chunk is fearful to go out of their home because of the insecurity that they might not return home safe. Therefore efforts need to be made to make the environment safe and secure for women. All in all, there is a dire need to bring back the country to Quaid’s vision which asserts that, “No nation can rise to the height of glory unless your women are side by side with you. We are victims of evil customs. It is a crime against humanity that our women are shut up within the four walls of the houses as prisoners. There is no sanction anywhere for the deplorable condition in which our women have to live.” —The writer is Researcher at Centre for International Strategic Studies, AJK. Email: tayaba.khan127@gmail.com

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Center for International Strategic Studies AJK, King Abdullah Campus Chatter kalas Muzaffarabad, Azad Jammu and Kashmir