Women in Pakistan
Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto was the first woman elected to lead a Muslim state, having twice been Prime Minister of Pakistan (1988–1990; 1993–1996).
|Gender Inequality Index|
|Rank||132 out of 146|
|Maternal mortality (per 100,000)||260 (2010)|
|Women in parliament||21.1% (2012)|
|Females over 25 with secondary education||18.3% (2010)|
|Women in labour force||22.7% (2011)|
|Global Gender Gap Index|
|Rank||134th out of 135|
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. However, on an average, the women's situation vis-à-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. However, in 2012, the World Economic Forum ranked Chad, Pakistan and Yemen as the worst in their Global Gender Gap Report. Pakistani women face atrocities like rape, acid throwing, honour killings, forced marriages, forced prostitution and the buying and selling of women. The past few years have been witness to a steep increase in such crimes.
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.
Ali points out that Muslim women leaders from all classes actively supported the Pakistan movement in the mid-1940s. Their movement was led by wives and other relatives of leading politicians. Women were sometimes organised into large-scale public demonstrations. Before 1947 there was a tendency for the Muslim women in Punjab to vote for the Muslim League while their menfolk supported the Unionist Party.
Pakistani women were granted the suffrage in 1947 under the Pakistan (Creation of Pakistan) Ordinance, and they were reaffirmed the right to vote in national elections in 1956 under the interim Constitution. The provision of reservation of seats for women in the Parliament existed throughout the constitutional history of Pakistan from 1956 to 1973.
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Government
The democratic regime of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (1970–1977) was a period of liberal attitudes towards women. All government services were opened to women including the district management group and the foreign service (in the civil service), which had been denied to them earlier. About 10% of the seats in the National Assembly and 5% in the provincial assemblies were reserved for women, with no restriction on contesting general seats as well. However, the implementation of these policies was poor as the Government faced a financial crisis due to the war with India and consequent split of the country.
Gender equality was specifically guaranteed in the Constitution of Pakistan adopted in 1973. The constitution stipulates that "there shall be no discrimination on the basis of sex alone." The Constitution additionally affords the protection of marriage, family, the mother and the child as well as ensuring "full participation of women in all spheres of national life.". However, many judges upheld the "laws of Islam", often misinterpreted, over the Constitution's guarantee of non-discrimination and equality under the law.
In 1975, an official delegation from Pakistan participated in the First World Conference on Women in Mexico, which led to the constitution of the first Pakistan Women's Rights Committee.
Zia-ul-Haq's military régime
General Zia ul-Haq, then Army Chief of Staff, overthrew the democratically elected Zulfikar Ali Bhutto government in a military coup on 5 July 1977. The Sixth Plan during the martial law régime of General Zia-ul-Haq (1977–1986) was full of policy contradictions. The régime took many steps toward institutional building for women's development, such as the establishment of the Women's Division in the Cabinet Secretariat, and the appointment of another commission on the Status of Women. A chapter on women in development was included for the first time in the Sixth Plan. The chapter was prepared by a working group of 28 professional women headed by Syeda Abida Hussain, chairperson of the Jhang District council at that time. The main objective as stated in the Sixth Plan was "to adopt an integrated approach to improve women's status". In 1981, General Zia-ul-Haq nominated the Majlis-e-Shoora (Federal Advisory Council) and inducted 20 women as members, however Majlis-e-Shoora had no power over the executive branch. In 1985, the National Assembly elected through nonparty elections doubled women's reserved quota (20 percent).
However, Zia-ul-Haq initiated a process of Islamization by introducing discriminatory legislation against women such as the set of Hudood Ordinances and the Qanun-e-Shahadat Order (Law of Evidence Order). He banned women from participating and from being spectators of sports and promoted purdah. He suspended all fundamental rights guaranteed in the Constitution that had been adopted in 1973, including the right to be free of discrimination on the basis of sex. He also proposed laws regarding Qisas and Diyat, Islamic penal laws governing retribution (qisas) and compensation (diyat) in crimes involving bodily injury. When the victim was a woman, the amount of diyat was halved
The Offence of Zina (Enforcement of Hudood) Ordinance, 1979 was a subcategory of the Hudood Ordinance. Zina is the crime of non-marital sexual relations and adultery. The Zina Ordinance included zina-bil-jabr, the category of forced intercourse. If the woman who accuses a man of zina-bil-jabr (rape) cannot prove to the judicial system that she was raped, she faces adultery charges. In order for a rapist to receive "hadd," the maximum punishment provided for under the Quran, either the rapist must confess to the rape, or four pious adult Muslim men must witness the "act of penetration" itself and testify against the rapist. Under Qanun-e-Shahadat, a woman's testimony was not weighed equally to that of a man. Thus, if a woman does not have male witnesses but does have female witnesses, their testimony would not satisfy the evidence requirement. The perpetrator may be acquitted and the victim may face adultery charges. The threat of being prosecuted discourages victims from filing complaints.
In addition, the legal possibility of marital rape was eliminated; by definition, rape became an extramarital offence according to the Zina ordinance. The ordinance prompted international criticism. Women's rights groups helped in the production of a film titled "Who will cast the first stone?" filmmaker by Sabiha Sumar to highlight the oppression and sufferings of women under the Hudood Ordinances.
In September 1981, the first conviction and sentence under the Zina Ordinance, of stoning to death for Fehmida and Allah Bakhsh were set aside under national and international pressure. In September 1981, women came together in Karachi in an emergency meeting to oppose the adverse effects on women of martial law and the Islamization campaign. They launched what later became the first full-fledged national women's movement in Pakistan, the Women's Action Forum (WAF). WAF staged public protests and campaigns against the Hudood Ordinances, the Law of Evidence, and the Qisas and Diyat laws (temporarily shelved as a result).
In 1983, an orphaned, thirteen-year old girl Jehan Mina was allegedly raped by her uncle and his sons, and became pregnant. She was unable to provide enough evidence that she was raped. She was charged with adultery and the court considered her pregnancy as the proof of adultery. She was awarded the Tazir punishment of one hundred lashes and three years of rigorous imprisonment.
In 1983, Safia Bibi, a nearly blind teenaged domestic servant was allegedly raped by her employer and his son. Due to lack of evidence, she was convicted for adultery under the Zina ordinance, while the rapists were acquitted. She was sentenced to fifteen lashes, five years imprisonment, and a fine of 1000 rupees. The decision attracted so much publicity and condemnation from the public and the press that the Federal Shariah Court of its own motion, called for the records of the case and ordered that she should be released from prison on her own bond. Subsequently, on appeal, the finding of the trial court was reversed and the conviction was set aside.
The International Commission of Jurists mission to Pakistan in December 1986 called for repealing of certain sections of the Hudood Ordinances relating to crimes and so-called "Islamic" punishments which discriminate against women and non-Muslims.
There is considerable evidence that legislation during this period has negatively impacted Pakistani women's lives and made them more vulnerable to extreme violence. Majority of women in prison were charged under the Hudood Ordinance. Similarly, a national level study conducted in dar-ul-amans (shelters for women) mentioned that 21% of women had Hudood cases against them. According to a 1998 report by Amnesty International, more than one-third of all Pakistani women in prison were being held due to having been accused or found guilty of zina.
Benazir Bhutto Government
After Zia-ul-Haq's regime, there was a visible change in the policy context in favour of women. The Seventh, Eighth, and Ninth plans formulated under various democratically elected governments have clearly made efforts to include women's concerns in the planning process. However, planned development failed to address gender inequalities due to the gap between policy intent and implementation.
In 1988, Benazir Bhutto (Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's daughter) became the first female Prime Minister of Pakistan, and the first woman elected to head a Muslim country. During her election campaigns, she voiced concerns over social issues of women, health and discrimination against women. She also announced plans to set up women's police stations, courts and women's development banks. She also promised to repeal controversial Hudood laws that curtailed the rights of women However, during her two incomplete terms in office (1988–90 and 1993–96), Benazir Bhutto did not propose any legislation to improve welfare services for women. She was not able to repeal a single one of Zia-ul-Haq's Islamisation laws. By virtue of the eighth constitutional amendment imposed by Zia-ul-Haq, these laws were protected both from ordinary legislative modification and from judicial review.
In early 1988, the case of Shahida Parveen and Muhammad Sarwar sparked bitter public criticism. Shahida's first husband, Khushi Muhammad, had divorced her and the papers had been signed in front of a magistrate. The husband however, had not registered the divorce documents in the local council as required by law, rendering the divorce not legally binding. Unaware of this, Shahida, after her mandatory 96 day period of waiting (iddat), remarried. Her first husband, rebounding from a failed attempt at a second marriage, decided he wanted his first wife Shahida back. Shahida's second marriage was ruled invalid. She and her second husband, Sarwar were charged with adultery. They were sentenced to death by stoning. The public criticism led to their retrial and acquittal by the Federal Shariah Court.
Ministry of Women's Development (MWD) established Women's Studies centres at five universities in Islamabad, Karachi, Quetta, Peshawar, and Lahore in 1989. However, four of these centres became almost non-functional due to lack of financial and administrative support. Only the center at University of Karachi (funded by the Canadian International Development Agency) was able to run a master of arts programme.
The First Women Bank Ltd. (FWBL) was established in 1989 to address women's financial needs. FWBL, a nationalised commercial bank, was given the rôle of a development finance institution, as well as of a social welfare organisation. It operates 38 real-time online branches across the country, managed and run by women. MWD provided a credit line of Rs 48 million to FWBL to finance small-scale credit schemes for disadvantaged women. The Social Action Programme launched in 1992/93 aimed at reducing gender disparities by improving women's access to social services.
Pakistan acceded to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) on 29 February 1996. The Ministry of Women Development (MWD) is the designated national focal machinery for its implementation. However MWD has been facing lack of adequate resources for the implementation. Pakistan failed to submit its initial report that was due in 1997. Also, Pakistan neither signed nor ratified the Optional Protocol of the Women's Convention, which has led to non-availability of avenues for filing grievances by individuals or groups against Pakistan under CEDAW.
Nawaz Sharif Government
In 1997, Nawaz Sharif, a political protégé of Zia-ul-Haq, was elected as the Prime Minister. He had also held office for a truncated term (1990–1993), during which he had promised to adopt Islamic law as the supreme law of Pakistan.
In 1997, the Nawaz Sharif government formally enacted the Qisas and Diyat Ordinance, which institutes shariah-based changes in Pakistan's criminal law. The ordinance had earlier been kept in force by invoking the president's power to re-issue it every four months.
Sharif then proposed a fifteenth amendment to the Constitution that would entirely replace the existing legal system with a comprehensive Islamic one and would override the "constitution and any law or judgment of any court.". The proposal was approved in the National Assembly (lower house), where Sharif's party has a commanding majority, but, it remained stalled in the Senate after facing strong opposition from women's groups, human rights activists, and opposition political parties.
A 1997 ruling by the Lahore High Court, in the highly publicised Saima Waheed case, upheld a woman's right to marry freely but called for amendments to the 1965 Family Laws, on the basis of Islamic norms, to enforce parental authority to discourage "love marriages".
The report of the Inquiry of the Commission for Women (1997) clearly stated that the Hudood legislation must be repealed as it discriminates against women and is in conflict with their fundamental rights. A similar commission during Benazir Bhutto's administration had also recommended amending certain aspects of Hudood Ordinance. However, neither Benazir Bhutto nor Nawaz Sharif implemented these recommendations.
The enhancement of women's status was stated as one of the 16 goals listed in the Pakistan 2010 Program (1997), a critical policy document. However, the document omits women while listing 21 major areas of interests. Similarly, another major policy document, the "Human Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy" (1999), mentioned women as a target group for poverty reduction but lacks gender framework.
Pervez Musharraf's régime
In 2000, the Church of Pakistan ordained its first women deacons. In 2002 (and later during court trials in 2005), the case of Mukhtaran Mai brought the plight of rape victims in Pakistan under an international spotlight. On 2 September 2004, the Ministry of Women Development was made an independent ministry, separating from the Social Welfare and Education Ministry.
In July 2006, General Pervez Musharraf asked his Government to begin work on amendments to the controversial 1979 Hudood Ordinance introduced under Zia-ul-Haq's régime. He asked the Law Ministry and the Council of Islamic Ideology (under the Ministry of Religious Affairs) to build a consensus for the amendments to the laws. On 7 July 2006 General Musharraf signed an ordinance for the immediate release on bail of around 1300 women who were currently languishing in jails on charges other than terrorism and murder.
In late 2006, the Pakistani parliament passed the Women's Protection Bill, repealing some of the Hudood Ordinances. The bill allowed for DNA and other scientific evidence to be used in prosecuting rape cases. The passing of the Bill and the consequent signing of it into law by President General Pervez Musharraf invoked protests from hard-line Islamist leaders and organisations. Some experts also stated that the reforms will be impossible to enforce.
The Cabinet has approved reservation of 10% quota for women in Central Superior Services in its meeting held on 12 July 2006. Earlier, there was a 5% quota for women across the board in all Government departments. In December 2006, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz approved the proposal by Ministry of Women Development, to extend this quota to 10%.
In 2006, The Protection of Women (Criminal Laws Amendment) Act was also passed. In December 2006, for the first time, women cadets from the Military Academy Kakul assumed guard duty at the mausoleum of Muhammad Ali Jinnah.
President Asif Zardari
President Asif Ali Zardari led Pakistan People's Party government was responsible for landmark development in women rights' legislation and empowerment in Pakistan and commended by Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and on international level.
Appointment of Women
Coming into power it appointed a female member of parliament and party loyalist Dr. Fehmida Mirza as the first female speaker in South Asia. During the tenor Pakistan saw its first female foreign minister, Hina Rabbani Khar, first secretary of defence, Nargis Sethi, deputy speaker of a province Shehla Raza and numerous female ministers, ambassadors, secretaries including Sherry Rehman, Fauzia Wahab, Firdous Ashiq Awan, Farzana Raja, Shazia Marri, Sharmila Faruqi and others held prestigious positions within the administration.
Legislation for protection of women
On 29 January 2010 the President signed the 'Protection against Harassment of Women at Workplace Bill 2009' which the parliament adopted on 21 January 2010. Two additional bills were signed into law by the President in December 2012 criminalising the primitive practices of Vani, watta-satta, swara and marriage to Holy Quran which used women as tradable commodoties for settlement of disputes. In addition the punishment for acid throwing to life imprisonment. The government further established special task force in the interior Sindh region to for action against the practice of Karo-Kari establishing helplines and offices in the districts of Sukkur, Jacobabad, Larkana and Khairpur.
In 2012 the government revived the National Commission on Status of Women established by General Musharraf for three years in 2000, later being revived for three years at a time. The bill moved by government established the commission as a permanent body with the task to ensure the implementation of women protection legislation and abuses against women.
- 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.
- 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. In one extreme case in 2012, a local Jirga in Ashari village, Swat ordered that Roza Bibi, a girl of six, must be married off into a rival family to settle a dispute between her family and the rival family.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
A Sari is a formal dress worn on special occasions by some mainly urban women. The so-called "Islamization" under General Zia ul Haq's dictatorship branded the sari as an "unIslamic" form of dress. The sari is now making a comeback in fashionable circles. Western garments such as T-shirts and Jeans are common amongst young urban women.
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.
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. 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 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.
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.
Although women play an active role in Pakistan's economy, their contribution has been grossly underreported in some censuses and surveys. The 1991–92 Labour Force Survey revealed that only about 16% of women aged 10 years and over were in the labour force. The World Bank's reports of 1997 stated that women constituted only 28% of the country's labour force. According to the 1999 report by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, only two percent of Pakistani women participate in the formal sector of employment. However, the 1980 agricultural census stated that the women's participation rate in agriculture was 73%. The 1990–1991 Pakistan Integrated Household Survey indicated that the female labour force participation rate was 45% in rural areas and 17% the urban areas. Pakistani women play a major role in agricultural production, livestock raising and cottage industries.
Land and property rights
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.
Crimes against women
The violence against women in Pakistan is a major problem. Feminists and women's groups in Pakistan have criticised the Pakistani government and its leaders for whitewashing the persecution of women and trying to suppress information about their plight in the international arena. Skepticism and biased attitudes against women's complaints of violence are common among prosecutors, police officers and medicolegal doctors in Pakistan. According to reports from 1990s, such complaints often face delayed/mishandled processing and inadequate/improper investigations.
Rape is one of the most common crimes against women but grossly underreported due to the shame attached to the victim. Many cases of sexual harassment and acid attacks have also been reported. It is used as an illegal way to punish women who are deemed to have deviated from marital norms Marital rape is not recognised as a criminal offence in Pakistani law. Many cases of rape in police custody have also been reported. According to Report of the Commission of Inquiry for Women (1997), 70 percent of women in police stations were subjected to sexual and physical violence.
Many cases of bride burning due to dowry issues have been reported in Pakistan. The wife is typically doused with kerosene, gasoline, or other flammable liquid, and set alight, leading to death by fire.
According to a 1999 report, of the sixty "bride-burning" cases that made it to the prosecution stage (though 1,600 cases were actually reported), only two resulted in convictions. However dowry abuse cases are low after 2001. The BBC reckoned roughly 300 Pakistani brides were burnt to death in 1999.
Domestic violence is not explicitly prohibited in Pakistani domestic law and most acts of domestic violence are encompassed by the Qisas and Diyat Ordinance. The police and judges often tend to treat domestic violence as a non-justiciable, private or family matter or, an issue for civil courts, rather than criminal courts.
A 1987 study conducted by the Women's Division and another study by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in 1996 suggested that domestic violence takes place in approximately 80 percent of the households in the country. Domestic violence occurs in forms of beatings, sexual violence or torture, mutilation, acid attacks and burning the victim alive.
Acid throwing (acid attack or vitriolage) is a form of violent assault. Perpetrators of these attacks throw acid at their victims (usually at their faces), burning them, and damaging skin tissue, often exposing and sometimes dissolving the bones. The consequences of these attacks include blindness and permanent scarring of the face and body. These attacks are most common in Cambodia, Afghanistan, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and other nearby countries. According to Taru Bahl and M.H. Syed, 80% of victims of these acid attacks are female and almost 40% are under 18 years of age.
Women in the Islamic Fundamentalist parts of Pakistan, such as the northern reaches around the Swat Valley, who do not cover their faces risk being attacked. The men's theory is that if the women won't hide their supposedly 'alluring faces', then they will be made 'too ugly' to be 'alluring to men'.
Pakistan had 48 registered cases 2009, but only 1/3 attacks are officially reported, estimates the Acid Survivors Foundation NGO. About 150 acid throwing incidents of nationally every year of which about 50 occur in Balochistan in 2009.
A Pakistani government report, "Acid Terrorism Against Women in Pakistan", revealed some cases of this horrific crime on 12 December 2009.
Charities, hospitals and NGOs known to be fighting this terror of acid throwing are
- Acid Survivors Foundation
- Italian Smileagain Foundation
- The Depilex Smile Again Foundation
- The Bakhtawar Amin Memorial Trust Hospital
Head and eyebrow shaving
This is the traditional, enforced buzz cuting or shaving off of a woman's head hair and sometimes her eyebrows to, as an often abused method of humiliation and chastisement. Pakistan does not have a separate law under the Women Protection Act to declare malicious head and eyebrow shaving.
A case was reported in village of Jaddar Bhanda, in the Punjab, on 18 December 2002. The woman had her head shaved and her four-year-old daughter forcibly married to the five-year-old son of her lover as punishment for committing adultery, which is considered unislamic and sinful. The man was ordered to give his bullock cart to the woman's cheated husband.
On 3 January 2011, in Larkana district, in Sindh province, a mother of 12 had her head and eyebrows shaved by her ex-husband and her three nephews, who had also beaten her, as punishment for divorcing him. He started casting bad aspersions on her character for saving other people's phone numbers on her cell phone. He said were drug addicts attending the local sports teams and not just friends, which has never been proven to be true.
Forty-seven-year-old Ghulam Ali, of Iqbal Town,[disambiguation needed] near Rawalpindi, allegedly tortured and then shaved his 15-year-old wife's head to further humiliate her on 22 December 2011. A Pakistani police spokesman said Ali started abusing physically assaulting his wife, Madiha Shaheen, now 15, for the last three months from the first week of marriage. Madiha's mother subsequently lodged a complaint against Ali in the local police station in Sadiqabad and was directed to the Shahzad Town Police Station because it fell under Shahzad Town's legal jurisdiction. Ghulam Ali was known to Shahzad Town Police as being involved in numerous other local criminal acts.
Pakistan has no laws banning or enforcing the ħijāb. Surveys conducted in Pakistan show that most women wearing the ħijāb do so of their own choice. Most women wear the Shalwar Kameez, which consists of a tunic top and baggy trouser set which covers their arms, legs and body. A loose dupatta scarf is also worn around the shoulders, upper chest and head since showing ones hair is considered rude and in bad taste. Men also have a similar dress code, but only women are expected to wear a veil in public. The ħijāb and Burquas is only worn in Islamist areas.
The Koran expresses two main views on the role of women. It both stresses the equality of women and men before God in terms of their religious duties (i.e. belief in God and his messenger, praying, fasting, paying zakat (charity), making hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca/ Medina)) and places them "under" the care of men (i.e. men are financially responsible for their wives). In one place it states: "Men are the maintainers and protectors of women, because Allah hath made the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend of their property (for the support of women)." The Koran explains that men and women are equal in creation and in the afterlife. Surah an-Nisa' 4:1 states that men and women are created from a single soul (nafs wahidah). One person does not come before the other, one is not superior to the other, and one is not the derivative of the other. A woman is not created for the purpose of a man. Rather, they are both created for the mutual benefit of each other.[Quran 4:34]
Nonetheless sexism against women, such as an unfair lack of employment or poor education, remains endemic in the more Islamic Fundamentalist parts of Pakistan, such as the northern reaches around the Swat Valley.
Marriage and divorce issues
Often, inter-caste marriages in Pakistan are met with violence against the women in the families involved. Women from low Pakistani Castes who try to get an education are looked down upon and sometimes attacked, the case of Ghazala Shaheen being the most infamous one which prompted international outcry.
The average age of women for marriage has increased from 16.9 years in 1951 to 22.5 years in 2005. A majority of women are married to their close relatives, i.e., first and second cousins. Only 37 percent of married women are not related to their spouses before marriage. The divorce rate in Pakistan is extremely low due to the social stigma attached to it.
Women who seek a divorce are also often victims of honour killings. One notable example is the high profile case of Samia Sarwar who was murdered in her lawyer's office on 6 April 1999 by a hitman hired by her family. She was seeking a divorce from her estranged, abusive husband, which was deemed as dishonorable by her family. Due to Samia's father being a prominent figure in the community, the police charged Samia's lawyers, Hina Jilani and Asma Jahangir, with "kidnapping" his daughter. Samia's father additionally "demanded that Hina Jilani and Asma Jahangir be dealt in accordance with 'tribal and Islamic law'" and be arrested for "misleading women in Pakistan and contributing to the country's bad image abroad. Several people belonging to religious organizations issued fatwas [religious edicts] against both female lawyers and promised to pay rewards to anyone who would kill them. ".
A case was reported in village of Jaddar Bhanda in the Punjab, on 18 December 2002. The woman had her head shaved, and her 4 year old daughter forcibly marry of to the 5 year old son of her male lover as a punishment for committing adultery, which is considered unislamic and sinful The man was ordered to give his bullock cart to the woman's cheated husband.
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.
According to 1998 figures, the female infant mortality rate was higher than that of male children. The maternal mortality rate is also high, as only 20 percent of women are assisted by a trained provider during delivery. Only 9 percent of the women used contraceptives in 1985, however this figure has increased substantially.
Women are also at a higher risk of contracting HIV-AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) because of male dominance in sex relations and lack of access to information.
Pakistan has taken certain initiatives in the health sector to redress gender imbalances. The SAP was launched in 1992–1993 to accelerate improvement in the social indicators. Closing the gender gap is the foremost objective of the SAP. The other major initiative is the Prime Minister's program of lady health workers (LHWs). Under this community-based program, 26,584 LHWs in rural areas and 11,967 LHWs in urban areas have been recruited to provide basic health care including family planning to women at the grassroots level. Other initiatives include the village-based family planning workers and extended immunisation programs, nutritional and child survival, cancer treatment, and increased involvement of media in health education.
The sex ratio in Pakistan is somewhat unbalanced with 1.05 men per 1 female. This phenomenon is attributable to male-favored sex ratio at birth (preference for sons). In the urban areas, the sex ratio is still lower, which could be attributed to a large male out-migration from rural to urban areas. The conservative Muslim families also refuse to give strangers any information about females in their household. This has been a major problem for census officials in Pakistan and also in Afghanistan.
Eve teasing is a euphemism used in India and sometimes Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal for public sexual harassment, street harassment or molestation of women by men, with Eve being a reference to the biblical Eve.
26 February 2012, a mob of 26–30 Muslims in the village of Kot Meerath, Sialkot district, 80 km from Lahore, 60 year old Seema Bibi (alias Sabi, wife of Yousaf), was drugged, dragged out of her house, had her head shaved and paraded her around the village after she became convert to Christianity (apostasy). She was so frightened she and her family left the village, fearing further violence.
The Baigowal police had arrested 21 suspects by 3 March, including Nawab Din, Naveed, Rafique, Ilyas, Farhan, Afzal, Shafaqat Ali, Zafar, Amanat Ali and M Ashraf. Police investigations are on-going. SHO Begowala police station official Munawar Hussain Shah said The police were not aware of the incident aft first, but would deal with tit in due time.
On 3 March 2012, a 19 year old Hindu girl called Rinkle Kumari from Mirpur Mahelo in Ghotki district, Sindh province was abducted a gang and "forced" to convert to Islam, before being head shaved.
On 20 February 2007, Zilla Huma Usman, the Minister for Social Welfare in the Punjab province and a political ally of President Pervez Musharraf, was assassinated at a public rally by a 'fanatic', who believed that she was dressed inappropriately and had no place in politics because she was a woman.
Women in Pakistan have progressed in various fields of life such as politics, education, economy, services, health and many more.
Politics and activism
Although 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 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.
Dr.Fehmida Mirza is the first female speaker of the National Assembly of Pakistan. Other prominent female Pakistani politicians include Begum Nasim Wali Khan, Raja Farzana, Syeda Abida Hussain, Sherry Rehman and Tehmina Daultana.
Hina Rabbani Khar became the first Minister of Foreign Affairs of Pakistan in 2011.
Mukhtaran Mai a victim of gang rape has become a prominent activist for women's rights in Pakistan.
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.
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.
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.
Sidra Sadaf, a woman cyclist won a silver medal at the 11th South Asian Games in Dhaka, Bangladesh in January 2010. Naseem Hameed became the fastest woman sprinter in South Asia following the 2010 South Asian games; she gained widespread popularity for the remarkable feat.
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.
Some of the notable Pakistani women in other fields including computing, education and business are:
- Rahila Narejo, Author, Columnist, Human Resource Consultant, CEO NHR
- Safia Khalil Rizvi, Computational Biologist, GlaxoSmithKline
- Samina Rizwan, former Area Manager, Oracle Corporation Pakistan
- Jehan Ara, CEO, Enabling Technologies
- Wajiha Malik, President IOPWE
- Sophia Hasnain, Technology Analyst
- Marvi Memon, ex-CEO Trakker
- Tauseef Hyat, Executive Director, Developments in Literacy
- Rabia Garib, Editor-in-chief CIO Pakistan and NetExpress
- Bernadette Louise Dean, former Principal of Kinnaird College, Lahore
- Mary Emily, recipient of the Sitara-e-Imtiaz for services to education
- Waheeda Baig started operating a driving school for women in the fifties. After the war of 1965, she became a full-time cab driver.
- Aban Marker Kabraji, environmentalist and Asia Regional Director of IUCN,
- Norma Fernandes, Former Head Mistress of Karachi Grammar School
- Aileen Soares, teacher in St Joseph's Convent School (Karachi) for 50 years.
- Audrey Juma, Director of the Notre Dame Institute of Education, Karachi
- Women's rights
- Women in Islam
- Honour killing in Pakistan
- Acid throwing
- Acid Survivors Trust International
- Modesty patrol
- Rape in Pakistan
- Women's organisations in Pakistan
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