The status of women in Pakistan 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. The Pakistani women of today enjoy a better status than most Muslim women. Women in Pakistan have progressed in various fields of life such as politics, education, economy, services, health and many more.
However, on an average, the women’s situation vis-a-vis men is one of systemic gender subordination, although there have been attempts by the government and enlightened groups to elevate the status of women in Pakistani society. Now due to lots of awareness among people the educational opportunities for the Pakistani women increased in the previous years. According to a Human Development Report released by the United Nations, Pakistan has better gender equality than neighbouring India.
History. Historically, in the 19th century, feminist-sympathetic movements within the South Asian Muslim community tried to counter social evils against Muslim women through the custom of purdah (where women were forcibly isolated from social contact, primarily with men). Other Muslim reformers such as Syed Ahmad Khan tried to bring education to women, limit polygamy, and empower women in other ways through education. The founder of Pakistan, Crown attorney/statesman Muhammad Ali Jinnah, was known to have a positive attitude towards women.
After the independence of Pakistan, women’s groups and feminist organisations started by prominent leaders like Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah started to form that worked to eliminate socio-economic injustices against women in the country. Education and economic development In Pakistan, the women’s access to property, education, employment etc. remains considerably lower compared to men’s. The social and cultural context of Pakistani society is predominantly patriarchal. Women have a low percentage of participation in society outside of the family. Education. Education has become a universal human right all around the globe.
Article thirty seven of the Constitution of Pakistan stipulates that education is a fundamental right of every citizen, but still gender discrepancies exist in educational sector. According to Human Development Report (2011) of United Nations Development Program, ratio of female to male with at least secondary education is 0. 502, and public expenditure on education amounts to only 2. 7% of the GDP of the country. 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 percent), the educational achievements of female students are higher as compared with male students at different levels of education. 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 offer co-education. Similarly the public universities of Pakistan has female enrolment more than boys.
UNESCO and the Orascom subsidiary of Pakistan telco, Mobilink have been using mobile phones to educate women and improve their literacy skills since 4 July 2010. The local BUNYAD Foundation of Lahore and the UN’s work via the Dakar Framework of Action for EFA are also helping with this issue. Employment Patterns of women’s employment vary throughout the Muslim world: as of 2005, 16% of Pakistani women were “economically active” (either employed, or unemployed but available to furnish labour), whereas 52% of Indonesian women were.
Land and property rights Around 90% of the Pakistani households are headed by men and most female-headed households belong to the poor strata of the socity. Women lack ownership of productive resources. Despite women’s legal rights to own and inherit property from their families, there are very few women who have access and control over these resources. Health The health indicators of women in Pakistan are among the worst in the world. Intra-household bias in food distribution leads to nutritional deficiencies among female children.
Early marriages of girls, excessive childbearing, lack of control over their own bodies, and a high level of illiteracy adversely affect women’s health. More than 40 percent of the total female population are anaemic. Women are also at a higher risk of contracting HIV-AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. The program of lady health workers (LHWs) which is community-based program, 26,584 LHWs in rural areas and 11,967 LHWs in urban areas have been recruited1 to provide basic health care including family planning to women at the grassroots level.
Arts and entertainment. Madam Noor Jehan was the melodious lady singer of the sub continent. there are many other female singers including Abida Parveen, Farida Khanum, Nayyara Noor, Iqbal Bano and Tahira Syed. Faryal Gohar Zeba Bakhtiar and Samina Pirzada are acclaimed Pakistani actresses. Nazia Hassan was an iconic female Pakistani pop singer. Nigar Nazar is the first woman cartoonist in Pakistan and the Muslim World. Fauzia Minallah is the first and youngest woman political cartoonist to win the All Pakistan Newspaper Society award. She is also the winner of Ron Kovic Peace prize. Sports
In 1996, when sisters Shaiza and Sharmeen Khan first tried to introduce women’s cricket in Pakistan, they were met with court cases and even death threats. The government refused them permission to play India in 1997, and ruled that women were forbidden from playing sports in public. However, later they were granted permission, and the Pakistani women’s cricket team played its first recorded match on 28 January 1997 against New Zealand in Christchurch. Literature Ismat Chughtai, who was part of the Progressive Writers Association, is considered one of the most important feminist writers of Urdu.
Parveen Shakir, Kishwar Naheed and Fehmida Riaz are also renowned for their feminist poetry in Urdu. Modern fiction writers such as Rizwana Syed Ali and Bano Qudisa have also highlighted gender issues. Bapsi Sidhwa is one of Pakistan’s most prominent English fiction writers. In 1991, she received Sitara-i-Imtiaz, Pakistan’s highest honour in arts. Culture Although the women’s dress varies depending on region, class and occasion, shalwar kameez is principal garment worn by Pakistani women. Ghararas (a loose divided skirt worn with a blouse) and lehengas were very common earlier, but now they are worn mostly at weddings.
Few Pakistani women wear the hijab or burqa. Western garments such as T-shirts and Jeans are common amongst young urban women. Purdah Purdah norms are followed in many communities of Pakistan. It is practised in various ways, depending on family tradition, region, class, and rural or urban residence. Issues related to marriage ·Child marriage/ (Vani) Although the Child Marriages Restraint Act makes it illegal for girls under the age of 16 to be married, instances of child marriages can be found. Vani is a child marriage custom followed in tribal areas and the Punjab province.
The young girls are forcibly married off in order to resolve the feuds between different clans; the Vani can be avoided if the clan of the girl agrees to pay money, called Deet, to other clans. Swara, Pait likkhi and Addo Baddo are similar tribal and rural customs that often promote marriage of girls in their early teenage years. ·Watta satta Watta satta is a tribal custom in which brides are traded between two clans. In order for you to marry off your son, you must also have a daughter to marry off in return.
If there is no sister to exchange in return for a son’s spouse, a cousin, or a distant relative can also do. Even though Islamic law requires that both partners explicitly consent to marriage, women are often forced into marriages arranged by their fathers or tribal leaders. ·Honor killings A majority of the victims of honour killings are women and the punishments meted out often tend to be lenient. The practice of summary killing of a person suspected of an illicit liaison is known as karo kari in Sindh and Balochistan.
In December 2004, the Government passed a bill that made karo kari punishable under the same penal provisions as murder. Many cases of honour killings have been reported against women who marry against their family’s wishes, who seek divorce or who have been raped. ·Marriage to Quran In some parts of Sindh, the practice of marrying a woman to Quran is prevalent among landlords, although this practise is alien to Islam and has no religious basis. The practice is often used by men to keep and grab the land of their sisters and daughters. Politics and activism
The participation of women in politics is increasing, the presence of women in the political parties as well as in the political structure at the local, provincial, and national levels remains insignificant due to cultural and structural barriers. Miss Fatima Jinnah, sister of Mohammed Ali Jinnah, was an instrumental figure in the Pakistan movement. In 1947, she formed the Women’s Relief Committee, which later formed the nucleus for the All Pakistan Women’s Association (APWA). She was the first Muslim woman to contest the presidency in 1965, as a candidate of the Combined Opposition Party.
Begum Shaista Ikramullah was the first woman elected member of the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan. Begum Mahmooda Salim Khan was Pakistan’s first woman minister and member of the Cabinet of President General Ayub Khan. Begum Ra’ana Liaquat Ali Khan (1905–1990) was a women’s rights activists. She was the founder of the All Pakistan Women’s Association. Begum Nusrat Bhutto wife of Prime Minister Zulfikhar Ali Bhutto, led the Pakistani delegation to the United Nations’ first women’s conference in 1975. Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto was the first female Prime Minister of Pakistan (1988)(1991) and the first woman elected to head a Muslim country.
She was elected twice to the office of Prime Minister. Dr. Fehmida Mirza is the first female speaker of the National Assembly of Pakistan. Hina Rabbani Khar became the first Minister of Foreign Affairs of Pakistan in 2011. Other prominent female Pakistani politicians include Begum Nasim Wali Khan, Raja Farzana, Syeda Abida Hussain, Sherry Rehman and Tehmina Daultana. Asma Jahingir and Hina Jillani, prominent human rights lawyers and founders of the first all women law firm in Pakistan, AGHS. Nigar Ahmad, women’s rights activist, co-founder of Aurat (women’s) Foundation, one of the oldest women’s organisation in the country.
Naela Chohan is a Pakistani diplomat and feminist artist. She is currently serving as the Ambassador of Pakistan to Argentina, Uruguay, Peru and Ecuador. She has been a vocal proponent of stronger ties between Pakistan and Latin America. Farida Shaheed and Khawar Mumtaz, human rights activists and authors, associated with Shirkat Gah, a woman’s organisation. Shahla Zia, human rights activist and lawyer, co-founder of AGHS with Asma Jahingir and Hina Jillani, and also co-founder of Aurat Foundation with Nigar Ahmad. Also the plaintiff in Shahla Zia v. WAPDA, the leading case on environmental law in Pakistan. Tahira Abdullah, prominent human rights activist, associated with Women’s Action Forum (WAF) and the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) and was a prominent member of the Lawyers Movement. Anis Haroon, Chairperson of the National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW). Justice Majida Rizvi, one of the first female High Court judges, ex-Chairperson of the NCSW and a human rights activist. Justice Nasira Iqbal, daughter in law of Allama Iqbal and one of the first female High Court judges and a prominent and vocal human rights activist.