Pakistan`s Feminist Renaissance

Feminism is challenging misogynist cultural traditions instead of rebuking religion.


“Culture does not make people. People make culture. If full humanity of women is not our culture, then we must make it our culture”. Nigerian activist Adichie in her work “We Should All be Feminists.” Like all rights-based movements, indigenous women’s rights revisionism garnered colossal hatred of disgruntled status-quo powers. The overwhelming message of this year`s Aurat March is still jolting the patriarchal landscape of Pakistan. Despite the plethora of statistical and anecdotal evidence of the plight of Pakistani women, stubbornly conservative society is hell-bent upon condemning indigenous feminist awakening. Pakistan`s 151st place out of 153 countries in the 2020 Global Gender Gap index didn`t provoke outrage. Adding insult to injury, legitimate Aurat March`s manifesto was besmirched under the veneer of custom, tradition, culture, and twisted de-contextualized interpretations of religion. In retrospect, Leila Ahmad`s emphasis upon the “stubbornly egalitarian voice of Islam” challenges the patriarchal interpretation of Islam.

Now the question arises that is indigenous feminism subversive to culture and religion? The answer is both affirmative and negative. Feminism is challenging misogynist cultural traditions instead of rebuking religion. The discriminatory local culture prevails over religion in myriad aspects such as depriving daughters of the right of inheritance, right to education, right to choose husband, female foeticide, institutionalized dehumanization, reducing marriage to glorified slavery, honor killing, dowry deaths, murder over giving birth to a daughter, subjection to physical and mental violence and robbing her right to dignity as a human being. Islam never ordained her to serve the entire family of their husband because nurturing her progeny is itself huge responsibility. Religion never commanded men to depend upon their sick or injured women for warming food. Its sheer duplicity that a society embroiled in an epidemic of pestiferous moral policing and religious obscurantism goes thirsty to get the link to a girl`s leaked video.

The sheer hate and abuse against feminism raises the question that does people have basic understanding of this movement? The flimsiest arguments leveled against feminism illustrate that gullible public is indoctrinated by propagandist information from social media and blissfully ignorant religious entrepreneurs. These rogue elements are manipulating feminism`s objectives as being right to parading naked in streets, sexual debauchery and moral wickedness. Whereby, jirgas paraded scores of women naked to avenge crimes committed by enraged men without whipping frenzy. Unfortunately, society pretends to have deep dream of slumber when women are brutalized, traumatized, dehumanized and degraded over petty matters.

Status-quo powers are disseminating a dubious profile of Pakistani feminist activists to garner collective backlash against them. So, it’s very important to a mainstream the objective definition of feminists and for what they stand for. An immensely acknowledged 2012 Study by Dr Jaweria Shahid and Khalid Manzoor Butt accurately defined feminists by concluding; “Feminists are those who dare to break the conspiracy of silence about oppression, unequal relationships between men n women n who want to change it”.

Pakistani women are now standing up for themselves by narrating harrowing accounts encountered by them throughout their lives. Unfortunately, a society that has always been an indifferent bystanders to the plight of women formed a tacit alliance against revisionist women. This illustrates that Mona Eltahawy was right when she declared;

“The most subversive thing a woman can do is talk about her life as if it really matters”.

Patriarchal conditioning of men dehumanizes them by “manufacturing” emotionally stunted insensitive creatures. The benchmark of their masculinity is projection of chauvinism against “the second sex”. Feminism embraces men as emotional beings whose vulnerabilities and insecurities have to be celebrated. Indian developmental feminist Kamala Bhasin reiterated;

“Men will have to change, not to support women but to save themselves from being brutalized by centuries of exposure to patriarchy”.

Instead of viewing feminine revisionism from prism of toxic masculinity, misogynist elements must dissect framework which permits brutalities and cruelties upon women behind impermeable four walls. Hilarious irony is that a society which practices collective moral policing immediately renders domestic violence private matter.

Feminist awakening is only answer to Pakistan`s deteriorating image as illiberal primitive pariah state. Demonization of feminism is further tarnishing our global portrayal and exposing our callous disregard for Beijing Declaration 1995. Gender sensitive institutional and cultural revolution would have to present mélange of both secular and religious strands. Rise of women is not tantamount to fall of men. Asma Barlas rightly propounded that; “Quran renders men and women not as two binary oppositions but as two complete differences.”

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