Women all over the world, have been facing gender inequality from time immemorial. Many movements have been initiated with the aim of ameliorating of women’s lives, but the recent statistics show an appalling condition of women. History provides ample examples of women’s subjugation and inequality which, they have been facing since antiquity. The plight of South Asian women especially, that of Pakistan is an important issue that is often neglected by law-making bodies in Islamabad. However, if the law gives protection to women, the society and customs turn a deaf ear to these laws.
The Global Gender Gap Index Report ranked Pakistan 153rd out of 156 countries on the index and was ranked seventh among eight South Asian countries. Women in Pakistan have never been considered at par with men. The detestable customs only make life miserable for women across the country. Moreover, they are to be reigned over by men for the better or in majority cases, for the worst. Women cannot raise their voice against violence by men that is, their fathers, brothers, husbands and their male relatives who have authority to control them in one way or another. The pandemic has only worsened the situation of women in Pakistan. There are over 2000 cases of violence against women being reported in 2021. The ever-perpetuating customs against women have further added salt to injury. As in 2021, a case of Wani (a custom in which girls are given or sold to resolve a dispute) have been in reported in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. The Ghag or force marriage is still practiced in tribal areas of Pakistan. Another custom, Haq Bakhshish which is practised in Sindh rural and Southern Punjab is against the Islamic teachings. Haq Bakhshish is a marriage with the Quran in which girls renounce their right to marry. The custom is still prevalent in areas where girl’s family seeks to protect property. The Pakistani law has given protection to women by sentencing 7-year punishment to the miscreants who practise this tradition. However, no one dares to report these cases and the vicious cycle of women subjugation continues. The menace of these customs is haunting women in the advanced world.
The customary practices of women subjugation have given birth to violence as well and there is an exponential growth of cases like honor killing, harassment, acid throwing and rapes. The heart-wrenching gang rape of a woman on Sialkot-Lahore motorway which, sparked a country wide protest had awaken the ruling elite in Islamabad from deep slumber. The anti-rape ordinances were promulgated to provide security to the women. Despite the approval of these bills, the rape cases have a no end. 200 cases have been reported only from the capital.
There is a broad consensus that no country can progress without the full participation of women in public life. The founder of Pakistan was fully aware of this and therefore, supported women education and empowerment vigorously.
“No Nation can ever be worthy of its existence that cannot take its women along with 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 pen”. Keeping in view Quaid’s ideology and his regard for women, shows that he wanted a modern society where everyone would have an equal chance regardless of gender. A just and enlightened society according to the teachings of Quran and Sunnah. However, it has never happened, and our society has failed to address the causes of ill-treatment of men towards women. Illiteracy, misinterpretation of religion and customs of patriarchal culture have been a leading cause of plight of women in Pakistan. The illiteracy in rural areas, which comprises of majority population has shackled the minds of people. The girls in rural areas deprived of this basic right of education and hence, married of at an early age. Pakistan has a 6th highest number of girls who get marry before turning 18. The illiteracy and ignorance do not let them understand their basic rights which Islam and the constitution grants them. The next reason of women subjugation is the misinterpretation of religion in Pakistan. Islam has given an equal status to both men and women and one can only be superior on the basis of taqwa. Lastly, the patriarchal culture, which ought to maintain power is the main cause of atrocities against women.
Nevertheless, many steps have been taken for uplifting of women lives which hitherto, were considered a taboo. Women, themselves have started actively participating in different fields. The state of Pakistan has also increased quota for women in government jobs. Every political party is bound to give a specific number of seats to women. The only road to women empowerment is by bringing more women to the system. The process is slow but not discouraging. It might take decades or may be a century, but a change is bound to happen because the uplifting of women is corelated to the uplifting of society.
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