O mankind! Be dutiful to your Lord, Who created you from a single person (Adam), and from him (Adam) He created his wife (Eve), and from them both He created many men and women and fear Allah through Whom you demand your mutual (rights), and (do not cut the relations of) the wombs (kinship). Surely, Allah is Ever and All-Watcher over you.” (Al-Nisa 4:1)
Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah
Speech at Islamia College for Women
March 25, 1940
Woman can be called as God’s complete creation. She is the symbol of love, care, tenderness and intensity. Women are emotionally stronger than men. Margaret Thatcher, Benazir Bhutto and Indira Gandhi have shown that women can rule a country even better than men. However, historically the women have not been treated nicely by men. They have been denied their rights and opportunities, one may experience such attitude in offices, factories, schools, sports and entertainment fields.Constitution of Pakistan guarantees the rights of women and does not discriminate them in any sphere of life. The status of women in Pakistan varies considerably depending on class, regions, and the rural/urban divide. The uneven socioeconomic development and the tribal and feudal customs have strong impact on the formations of women’s lives. At one place some women are soaring in the skies as pilots of fighter planes and others are being buried alive for defying tribal traditions.
Substance of the essay
The Pakistani women of today enjoy a better status than many other Muslim women. However, generally, the women’s situation vis-Ã -vis men is one of systemic gender subordination, although there have been attempts by the government and the civil society to elevate the status of women in Pakistani society. It can be safely stated that despite all the constitutional guarantees, religious values and teachings, human rights, women are much deprived and mal-treated segment of society. In most of the cases she is considered as the root cause of all evils and very rarely as an angel in the house. More than 60 years after independence, 80 per cent of Pakistani women are subjected to domestic violence, while one in three has to endure villainy like rape, honour killing, immolation and acid attacks.
Our country is ranked 82 out of 93 countries on the Gender Development Index and 152 out of 156 countries on the Gender Empowerment Measure.
Despite the improvement in Pakistan’s literacy rate since its independence, the educational status of Pakistani women is among the lowest in the world. The literacy rate for urban women is more than five times the rate for rural women. The school drop-out rate among girls is very high (almost 50 per cent), the educational achievements of female students are higher as compared with male students at different levels of education. This is the story of few years ago but now the education in Pakistan for women is improving rapidly. In the Lahore city there are total 46 public colleges out of which 26 are female colleges and if we talk about the rest of 20 colleges some of them are offering co-education. Similarly, the public universities of Pakistan have female enrolment more than of boys.
The woman has no say in any domestic affairs of life. She has been the target of male dominance. It is only male, who is to wield power in both domestic and private affairs of life, whether it is the choice of marriage, casting of votes or any other financial and professional matters.
There is another social evil in society which is feudal attitude. It wipes out the entire factors which help woman to be empowered. It has really become a stumbling-block in women empowerment. This social evil urgently needs to be eradicated so that the chances of woman empowerment may become possible in the near future.
Truly speaking, the poor state of women can only be improved by promoting education ranging from primary to higher level and opening up the doors of opportunity for jobs in different departments, so that, they can become socially, economically, politically and professionally strong entity of the society.
Dogmatic obscurantism and patriarchal values have twisted and distorted our sense of societal values, particularly with respect to women and their place in society. Unless enlightened approach is adopted by the society, the innate prejudice against women that is so widespread in Pakistan and which our society as a whole seems to blindly pedal, or wilfully prefer, will continue to play havoc with the lives of women. Finally, the state of women can only be improved on the basis of promotion of education, greater participation in politics and widespread awareness about social, economic and political issues. Professional and financial liberty can further improve the state of women. Reduction of poverty and feudalism can successfully improve the state of women in Pakistan. Positive role of religious scholars and media can hopefully ameliorate the miserable state of women. Last but not the least, the role of strong and cogent institutions can definitely heighten the status of women of Pakistan.
For I cannot think that GOD Almighty ever made them [women] so delicate, so glorious creatures; and furnished them with such charms, so agreeable and so delightful to mankind; with souls capable of the same accomplishments with men: and all, to be only Stewards of our Houses, Cooks, and Slaves.
DANIEL DEFOE, the Education of Women