Another Women’s Day in Pakistan, But Where do Women Stand?

Another Women’s Day in Pakistan, But Where do Women Stand?
Pakistan is one of those countries which are least safe for women. Women continue to face challenges in domestic, social, organizational, political, and legal arenas and the irony is that this state of affairs is getting aggravated with each passing day but no serious action is being taken against it. To highlight the grievances faced by women in Pakistan, the country celebrates Women’s Day on 8th March with international community. The theme for International Women’s Day 2023, is Embrace Equity. But catching a glimpse of Pakistan’s current gender parity situation, it does not look like the country has even started taking the bare minimum initiatives to ensure equity.

In year 2022, Pakistan’s erstwhile minister of religious affairs had called for celebrating March 8 as “Hijab Day” instead of women’s day. Some right-wing parties had also declared that if women step out for protests then they will be beaten with batons because it is against the normative structure of the country.

Needless to say, these same scholars do not see the need to condemn violence that is carried out against women in the name of religion. These same people don’t feel threatened when women are abused at public places and even at homes. They do not declare those shameful acts as immoral and inhumane in the first place.

According to Human Rights Watch, around 1000 women are killed in the name of ‘honour’ in Pakistan. But our venerated scholars do not deem it important to highlight honour-killings in the context of Islam.

Rape cases against women are also on rise for a few years. There are a lot of socio-cultural and legal factors which tend to increase rape incidents: including the gender socialization patterns which mostly give leeway to males for their deviant behaviour, the onus of blame being placed on the rape victim, stigmatization of working women because of rigid division of labour by gender, failure regarding the implantation of rape related laws on the part of judiciary, and inefficacy of police department to put the culprits behind the bars.

In 2020, the UNDP (United Nations Development Program) ranked Pakistan among the top countries with a misogynist bias in the courts. This gives impunity to the culprit that he can get away from being executed no matter how much heinous act he has committed against a woman.

It is evident from the aforementioned case scenarios that Pakistan is far behind the world in terms of ensuring even basic human rights to women, not to mention the provision of equal and equitable opportunities. Observing Women’s Day with the global community and highlighting the gender inequality is important and one of the basic steps on the long road to gender equality.

The beneficiaries of patriarchy see this day as a threat to dismantling their patriarchal position which they have been enjoying for so long. But with an increase in awareness among women regarding their rights, the abusers are going to get an uproar from this marginalised segment of society which makes up half of the population of the country.

It is pertinent to note that women in Pakistan have been facing the menace of abuse, domestic violence, workplace harassment, educational issues, glass ceiling effect, misogynist mindset, discriminatory policies, and a lot of other grave issues. It is high time to realise that enough of verbal condemnation of this prejudiced behaviour, we need to change this culture of women objectification now.

Social and mainstream media need to play a crucial role in keeping people abreast of the intricacies of socialisation. Drama industry can prove to be a useful instrument in this regard. State institutions require a serious probing to monitor the state of anomie in the country. There is a dire need to teach people about the subtleties of women subjugation and its bleak impact on both gender groups which also acts as a barrier to country’s road to development.