Women in Pakistan

overview of the role of women in Pakistan

The status of women in Pakistan is one of systemic gender subordination even though it varies considerably across classes, regions, and the rural/urban divide due to uneven socioeconomic development and the impact of tribal, feudal, and capitalist social formations on women's lives. In modern Pakistan, women have held high offices including that of the Prime Minister, Speaker of the National Assembly, Leader of the Opposition, as well as federal ministers, judges, and serving commissioned posts in the armed forces. Major General Shahida Malik, attaining the highest military post for a woman. Benazir Bhutto was sworn in as the first woman Prime Minister of Pakistan on 2 December 1988.

Quotes edit

  • In countries such as Pakistan and Iran, and to a lesser extent in parts of Indonesia, Malaysia, Nigeria, and Tanzania, after the introduction of Islam, a significant regression occurred in individual freedom, the acquisition of scientific knowledge, and the rights of women.
    • Chapter 3, The Virgins’ Cage :Hirsi Ali, Ayaan - The Caged Virgin_ An Emancipation Proclamation for Women and Islam-Simon and Schuster_Atria Books (2008_2006)
  • A study published in June 2006 in the Journal of the Pakistan Medical Association, based on interviews with 300 women admitted to hospital for childbirth, said 80 percent reported being subjected to some kind of abuse within marriage. At times, the violence inflicted on women takes on truly horrendous forms. The Islamabad-based Progressive Women's Association (PWA), headed by Shahnaz Bukhari, believes up to 4,000 women are burnt each year, almost always by husbands or in-laws, often as “punishment” for minor “offences” or for failure to bring in a sufficient dowry. The PWA said it had collected details of nearly 8,000 such victims from March 1994 to March 2007, from three hospitals in the Rawalpindi-Islamabad area alone.
  • The number of incidents of violence against women increased by 13 per cent in 2009, says a report by the Aurat Foundation set to be released on Wednesday. The report states that 8,548 incidents of violence against women were reported in 2009 compared to 7,571 incidents reported in 2008. Of these, 5,722 were reported to have occurred in Punjab, followed by 1,762 in Sindh, 655 in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and 237 in Balochistan. Similarly, 172 cases of violence against women were reported in Islamabad, the report said.
  • PAKISTAN HAS the unique distinction of being the only South Asian country where it’s legal to discriminate against women. This was institutionalized via a set of constitutional amendments during the period of General Zia-ul-Haq’s dictatorship, which brutalized the country’s political culture: there were public hangings and floggings of criminals and dissidents. In 1979 the “Hudood Ordinance” repealed previous laws relating to rape. General Zia was determined to “Islamize” the country, and together with the creation of jihadi groups to fight Charlie Wilson’s war in Afghanistan measures were taken on the domestic front that have proved difficult to reverse. A raped woman could no longer testify against her violator because she was now considered only half a witness. Four adult males were required to corroborate her evidence. By alleging rape, which she was not in a position to prove, the woman admitted to intercourse rendering her liable to prosecution. Add to this the fact that sexual assaults on women are an everyday crime: the Human Rights Commission estimates a rape every three hours. Today, more than 50 percent of women in prison are those accused of adultery (i.e., unproven rape) and are awaiting verdicts. Many of them languish in jail for several months and sometimes years before their case is heard. Acquittals are rare and the most lenient sentence is a year in prison....
    Often poor women, who go to a police station and charge a man with rape, are subjected to further sexual abuse by the police, incidents of which multiplied dramatically after the “Islamic laws” were promulgated. Neither Benazir Bhutto nor General Musharraf managed to repeal the anti-women ordinances when they were in power. This gives a carte blanche to honor killers and anyone else. As social and economic conditions deteriorate for a vast majority of the population, women become even more vulnerable....
    The treatment of women as subhuman can also be seen in the statistics related to acid and kerosene burn victims. Young girls and women between the ages of fourteen to twenty-five are the usual target of this particular crime. The aim is to disfigure the face and burn the genital region. The reasons vary from case to case: jealousy, imagined infidelity, economic need to get a new bride and dowry, wives refusing sexual favors, and so on.
    • Tariq Ali-The Duel_ Pakistan on the Flight Path of American Power (2008)
  • I’ll do everything I can to discourage polygamy—besides it causes no small economic problem. Often the wives are separated in different houses or cities, as in my case. And not everyone can afford it, as I can.
    • Ali Bhutto, quoted in Oriana Fallaci. (2011). Interview in : Interviews with history and conversations with power. New York: Rizzoli.
  • It has been estimated that 1,000 women and girls from religious minorities are abducted, forcibly converted and then married off to their abductors every year.
    • report of the Commonwealth Initiative for Freedom of Religion and Belief (CIFoRB) [1] as quoted in [2]
  • Clerics were gaining influence everywhere: In the bureaucracy, civil servants sought promotions with overt expressions of religiousness; the army now held Quran study groups. Women were banned from playing sports in public; the national women’s hockey team, one of the world’s best, was forbidden from leaving the country. History was also being rewritten. Jinnah, the secular father of the nation, had a makeover: he was no longer shown in Western clothes in official portraits, only in traditional dress. References to pluralism and freedom of faith in Jinnah’s 1947 speech were scrubbed from the record. The methodical, relentless, systemwide changes were akin to a cultural revolution, unparalleled in the history of Islam in the subcontinent but cleaving closely to what was happening in Iran and Saudi Arabia. Although the Jamaat had been in awe of the Iranian Revolution, its leader saw Saudi Arabia as the more perfect model to emulate, with full segregation, banishment of women from the workplace, a ban on women driving, and the male guardianship system. Zia had caused worldwide consternation.
    • Kim Ghattas, Black Wave: Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the Forty-Year Rivalry That Unraveled Culture, Religion, and Collective Memory in the Middle East (2020)
  • No one really knows how many thieves had their hands amputated, perhaps none; or how many people were flogged during those years—many, too many. Information was scarce. In the first years of Zia’s regime, floggings and hangings were a public affair in the village square or city stadiums, but within a couple of years, the national outcry forced the authorities to conduct this grim business out of the public view. One thing was certain and documented: women were the biggest losers under Zia. During the 1960s and early 1970s, Pakistan had adopted very progressive laws ensuring a woman’s right to divorce, restricting polygamy, and even prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex. National literacy rates were still low, even more so for women, but they were rising steadily for everyone. Enrollment of girls in schools and universities was skyrocketing in cities. Women were beginning to participate in politics, they were rising as judges. This is why, despite the long road ahead for a deeply conservative society, Mehtab had believed she was part of a forward-looking country, where the future of women looked brighter. Neither she nor her friends had been looking for Western-style women’s rights; they did not speak in the radical terms of American feminists. “We have to exist with men,” Mehtab would tell those around her—with men and within their own society and its conventions. The uncompromising attitudes of the “women’s libbers” she had met in America was “an extreme position, confrontation was no good.” Gradual change had paid off. Now Zia was threatening to yank women back into purdah.
    • Kim Ghattas, Black Wave: Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the Forty-Year Rivalry That Unraveled Culture, Religion, and Collective Memory in the Middle East (2020)
  • The right to life of women (in Pakistan) … is conditional on their obeying social norms and traditions.
    • Hina Jilani, Pakistani lawyer and women’s rights activist [3]
  • The first thought a Western woman has when she arrives in a rigorously Muslim country like Pakistan is that she appears to be the only woman to have survived a tsunami that has washed away all the others.
    • Oriana Fallaci. Quoted in De, S. C., & Harss, M. (2017). Oriana Fallaci: The journalist, the agitator, the legend. quoting The Useless Sex: Voyage around the Woman, 1961.
  • This strip of land where there are no unmarried women, or love matches, and where mathematics are considered an opinion, includes six hundred million people, half of whom, more or less, are women who live behind the darkness of a veil. More than a veil, it is a sheet that covers her from head to toe like a shroud in order to hide her from the eyes of all but her husband, her children, or a feeble servant. This sheet, which is called purah or burka or pushi or kulle or djellaba, has two holes for the eyes, or a fine mesh opening two centimeters high and six centimeters wide. The wearer gazes out at the sky and her fellow man like a prisoner peering through the bars of her prison.... It is the immense reign of Islam.... These veiled women are the unhappiest women in the world. But the paradox is that they don’t know it because they don’t know what exists beyond this veil that imprisons them.
    • Oriana Fallaci, quoted in De, S. C., & Harss, M. (2017). Oriana Fallaci: The journalist, the agitator, the legend. quoting The Useless Sex: Voyage around the Woman, 1961.
  • In Pakistan, [Oriana Fallaci] has her first painful encounter with Islam. She comes across a wedding procession in Karachi. The crowd carries a figure hidden behind a pile of red fabric, like a package. Who is that? she asks. Nothing — a woman, she is told. Shocked by these words, Oriana asks to interview the bride. The guests oblige, even though they cannot understand what could possibly interest this foreign journalist. They unwrap the bride. She is a young girl with a pale face; her eyes are closed and coated with silver dust. She’s crying. Oriana tries to console her: “I told her there was nothing to cry about. I had seen the groom and he was handsome, and seemed kind.” She is lying. The groom is a smarmy man who has already tried to seduce this Western journalist who goes around with her arms uncovered. But Oriana is deeply moved by the child bride’s sadness and wants to help. The women in the wedding party do not understand her attitude. “All brides cry,” one of them tells her. “I cried for three days.”
    • De, S. C., & Harss, M. (2017). Oriana Fallaci: The journalist, the agitator, the legend, quoting The Useless Sex: Voyage around the Woman, 1961.
  • Strange are the doings of such mullahs, moulvis and military rulers. Dr. Asrar Ahmed, one of the leading religious scholars, has petitioned the 'Majlis-e-Shoora' (Federal Council) that since women are responsible for the growing rise in sex crimes they should not be appointed to Government posts or selected for the 'Majlis-e-Shoora' and other institutions, but confined to their homes. ... General Zia has further issued a law which fixes a woman's value as half that of a man's.
    • Illustrated Weekly of India dated February 27, 1983 , Inside Pakistan Today--by Lopamudra (also quoted in The Koran and the Kafir/A. Ghosh)
  • And yet one must be thankful for some mercies: in India, Muslim women do not live in a country in which the ulema have the power to enforce their decrees. In Saudi Arabia, in Pakistan since 1977 when Zia ul Haq promulgated the Hudood Ordinances, ... that power derives from and is conjoint with the power of the state.... In either event, the results are tragic. Several of the horrid cases have been much written about. Adultery and rape figured prominently in Zia’s Hudood Ordinances. For adultery, there had to be four, reliable, adult, Muslim, male eyewitnesses to actual, physical penetration—the stated purpose was to protect persons from being falsely accused. In several cases of women, in particular single, unmarried women, who had been raped and had become pregnant, the requisite eyewitnesses could not be produced. But their pregnancy was proof positive that they had had illegal sexual relations. And so, while they had been victims of rape, they became the accused—accused of zina, adultery: their charge that they had been raped became a confession of their having had illegal intercourse; and the fact that they were pregnant became proof positive. In a typical case, fifteen-year-old Jehan Mina was raped by two of her male relatives. She became pregnant. She was sentenced to 100 lashes. A higher court, out of ‘charity’, reduced the sentence to ten lashes. Thirteen-year-old Safia Bibi was blind. She was employed as a maid. Her employer and his son raped her. She became pregnant. The rapists went scot-free. She was sentenced to three years in prison, and thirty lashes— the flogging was limited to thirty lashes, the court said, out of leniency for her being blind. The case became a cause célèbre. Asma Jehangir, Hina Jilani and other human rights activists mounted a vigorous challenge. Pakistan’s Federal Court set the judgment aside—though it concurred that the evidence against the father and son was insufficient. And young Safia survived. But cases that are just as baseless and just as weighed against women, and the extreme fear they generate, have continued—under ‘laws’ that range from rape to divorce to blasphemy. At one time, it was reported that almost 70 to 80 per cent of undertrials languishing in Pakistan’s jails were women who had been charged with offences of this kind.
    • Arun Shourie - The World of Fatwas Or The Sharia in Action (2012, Harper Collins)

M edit

  • "...Many both inside and outside Pakistan have come to believe that unequal treatment for poor and disadvantaged Pakistani women is a price worth paying for stability and harmony in a country seen as pivotal in the fight against extremism. Yet the world must be clear that this cannot be so. The very women who have paid the heaviest of prices under rising extremism and militancy, from attacks on schools to coping with displacement, must have their rights and concerns placed at the forefront in Pakistan...."
  • Today, in Pakistan, respect for women no longer exists, and crimes against them have increased dramatically. They claim to have "Islamized" us. How can you Islamize people who are already Muslim? Ever since Zia gave power to the mullahs, it seems as though every man feels he can get hold of any female and tear her apart.
    • Ms Farkander Iqbal, Deputy Police Superintendent, Lahore, Pakistan. in Goodwin, Jan. Price of Honor. Boston, 1994. p 72, quoted from n Ibn Warraq, Why I am not a Muslim, 1995. p 321
  • The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said in its annual report that one woman is raped every three hours in Pakistan and one in two rape victims is a juvenile. According to Women's Action Forum, a woman's rights organization, 72 percent of all women in police custody in Pakistan are physically and sexually abused. Furthermore, 75 percent of all women in jail are there under charges of zina. Many of these women remain in jail awaiting trial for years.
    • Ibn Warraq, Why I am not a Muslim, 1995. p 324

S edit

  • "It’s always fascinating to see trolls go nuts under photos of public-facing women in dresses or costumes or anything the trolls deem 'vulgar'....Go home. I don’t dress for you, I don’t dress for anyone or anything other than my own sense of joy and play and expansion. The men of this country are obsessed with policing women, constantly defining their ‘honour’ in relation to women’s bodies and clothing and appearance. It is a smallminded, decayed, hateful thing to do. You want to disempower us because a deep part of you is hurting and angry. I get it. It’s societal and it is ugly."
  • "..To the women who continue to secularize public spaces with their words and clothes and defiance: you inspire me. On the face of it, it looks merely glitzy and silly, but only those subjected to the heat of abuse know that simply by being - by asserting with our voices and bodies - we are clawing back space from rotten hierarchies of power and control..."

See also edit

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