Women Rights: Rhetoric to Reality

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Women are strong, powerful, and invincible. With thousands of mantras encouraging women `s existence every day, a special day is indeed a necessity to celebrate women`s achievements in all aspects of life. Women have been making the world a better place with their infinite strength, determination, and belief. The 8th march is celebrated as an international women`s day worldwide and at the same time, it is the most debatable and hot topic among the right and the left-wing of the people of Pakistan, particularly youth. There is always a debate about feminism and how it is being portrayed through the banners of the Aurat March. Especially after the controversy of the Khalil ul Rahman and Marwi Sarmad. Come towards the problems of the Pakistani women she is facing.There is no doubt that Pakistani society is the true picture of the patriarchy and one cannot deny the right violation of women in a male-dominated society.Some of the major issues include forced marriage harassment, domestic violence, and deprivation from inheritance.When it comes to women’s rights Pakistan becomes the worst country to live in.According to the Global Gender Gap Report 2021 published by the World Economic Forum, Pakistan ranked seventh among eight countries in South Asia only better than Afghanistan. Pakistan`s gender gap has even widened by 0.7 percentage points in 2021 compared to 2020. The WEF also uses four sub-indexes to measure the ranking of 156 economies on various dimensions of gender parity.These dimensions include economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, political empowerment, and health and survival. Pakistan ranked 153rd in health and survival, 152nd in economic participation and opportunity, 144th in educational attainment, and 98th in political empowerment indices. In September 2019, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) had rung alarm bells over the plight of women in Pakistan, saying 430 cases of honor killings were reported in Pakistan during 2020. Of these, 363 were women and 148 happened to be men. Forced marriages are the norm in Pakistan.IT would be fair to say that marriages in Pakistan are ‘forced’. On one end of the spectrum are the extreme cases, ones in which young girls, often even those who have not yet reached puberty, are forced to marry older men. These extreme cases often involve the use of young girls offered up as brides to settle disputes or pay debts. Those who dare to go against the fate that has been decided for them by cruel and authoritarian family members may even face physical harm. Declared the ‘honor’ of their families, any effort on their part to exercise their right to choose their future is seen as deserving of the most vicious violence. Even when the girls, or couples, run away, they are hounded until their location is discovered and relayed to their families so that they may be killed. Draconian and cruel as they are, these sorts of cases of forced marriages are likely just a small percentage of the total instances of forced marriages that occur in Pakistan. A ‘forced marriage’, after all, is one in which one or both parties have not consented. The operative word here is ‘consent’, and while technically speaking consent can be given by saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’, philosophically speaking it is a much more complex issue. In the typical arranged marriage, for instance, both the bride and the groom are asked whether they agree to the match. This ‘asking’ and the consequent provision of ‘consent’ that is obtained when the bride- and groom-to-be say ‘yes’ becomes the basis of their acquiescence.There is more to consent than saying ‘yes’. Focusing only on the technical definition of consent leaves out so much of the story. It does not, for instance, consider one of the strongest drivers of marriage in our society, which is family pressure. In most cases, when a bride-to-be is asked about whether she wants to say ‘yes’ to a particular proposal, the real message to her is simply that we have chosen this man for you and you should choose this man too. Technically speaking, the bride-to-be can say ‘no’ but the cost of this ‘no’, when everyone in the family has already decided that the proposal is the best one, is formidable. If the girl has the guts to stand up to her family, she will be pressured in other ways — withdrawal of affection, taunting, teasing, and, worse still, accused of misbehavior and disrespect. It is not surprising that faced with the usually perfunctory ritual of ‘asking the girl’, they know what they are supposed to say, what everyone wants them to say, and so they say ‘yes’. These are some of the major issues of Pakistani women and from the last few years, women especially from the urban areas march on women’s day to raise their voice against the right violation. The march no doubts play an important role in the awareness of the social and fundamental rights of women.Words have power.Say something often enough and it will manifest.The security policy of Pakistan is depicting it. The document rightly acknowledges that “no security policy can be successful unless it adopts a gendered lens to achieving peace and security … providing women and transgender persons a safe environment at home, in public spaces, and at the workplace are priorities for the country”. The policy also calls for women and transgender people to participate freely and securely in all avenues of public life and calls for protection from gender-based violence.The two paragraphs on gender security are a huge leap forward.

The women of Pakistan can be divided into two groups one of those who belong from the rural areas not even aware of their fundamental rights and the most exploited community. The second is the women from the urban areas who are comparatively independent and educated. These women claim to show solidarity to exploited ones which I discussed earlier has its influence. But on the flip side of the coin, there is another story as well about the level of information the woman raising slogan has about feminism and women empowerment.

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