Women's rights in Pakistan

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Women's rights in Pakistan
Gender Inequality Index
Value 0.573 (2011)
Rank 115th
Maternal mortality (per 100,000) 260 (2008)
Women in parliament 21.0% (2011)
Females over 25 with secondary education 23.5% (2010)
Women in labour force 21.7% (2009)
Global Gender Gap Index
Value 0.5478 (2012)
Rank 134th out of 136

Woman's rights in Pakistan under Pakistan's dual system of civil and sharia law, females are considered equal under the law (ceteris paribus is assumed) and in religious practice, rights accorded to them by Pakistan's Islamic Republic constitution of 1958 and consolidated in 1973, which outlawed gender discrimination on all levels.[1] However, women face significant challenges in society, the economy and face a slow lower courts judicial system in order to get justice[2] A census has not been carried out in Pakistan since 1998 - but recent statistics from UNICEF show that the female literacy rate has risen significantly from a paltry 39.6 percent to a much improved rate of 61.5% for 15- to 24-year-olds, a highly significant factor given that 70% of Pakistan's population is under 30.[3]


As of 2010, the literacy rate of females in Pakistan is at 39.6 percent compared to that of males at 67.7 percent.[4] More recent statistics provided by the UNICEF - shows that female education amongst 15-24 year olds has increased substantially to 61.5% - an increase of 45%. Male education is at a steady rate of 71.2%[3] The objectives of education policies in Pakistan aim to achieve equality in education between girls and boys and to reduce the gender gap in the educational system.[5] However, the policy also encourages girls, mainly in rural areas of Pakistan, to acquire basic home management skills, which are preferred over full-scale primary education. The attitudes towards women in Pakistani culture make the fight for educational equality more difficult. The lack of democracy and feudal practices of Pakistan also contribute to the gender gap in the educational system.[4] This feudal system leaves the underpowered, women in particular, in a very vulnerable position. The long-lived socio-cultural belief that women play a reproductive role within the confines of the home leads to the belief that educating women holds no value. Although the government declared that all children of the ages 5–16 can go to school, there are 7.261 million children out of school at the primary level in Pakistan, and 58% are female (UNESCO, Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2011).[6] Although girls have the right to get an education legally, in many rural regions of Pakistan girls are strongly discouraged from going to school and discriminated against, as there are violent acts such as acid throwing which many girls fall victim to for attending school.

Rural/urban divide and government policy[edit]

Females are educated equally like Males in urban areas such as Lahore, Islamabad and Karachi. However, in rural areas, the education rate is substantially lower. This has begun to change with the issuance of government policy, by Imran Khan's PTI, in which 70% of new schools are built for girls,[7] and also plans to increase the size of women's school so that the infrastructure matches those of men's schools[8] and more female colleges have also been established in order to provide women with higher education [9]

Marriage rights[edit]

The current laws enacted in Pakistan state that the legal age for men to be married is 18 and women 16.[10] Many girls are still married off into a child marriage, and many complications with this can occur as childbirth from a child can cause complications with the baby and mother.[10] A common system in place with marriage is the Dowry system in which a low or no status is assigned to a girl right from the prenatal stage.There are issues around the dowry system such as dowry related violence, in which the wife is abused by her husband. Before the marriage, the groom will make heavy financial demands on the bride's family as a condition of marrying their daughter.[11] In order for many parents' daughters to get married, they start “obtaining loans from people, getting interest based loans from banks, utilising their life savings and even sell their homes,”(JAHEZ (Dowry Conditions Set by the Groom for Marriage)). Within the dowry system, abuse is likely to occur after the marriage has taken place. Prior to the marriage, if certain conditions that the groom and his family have put in place are not met, they will threaten to break off the marriage, which would be devastating for the bride and her family because of the lengths the bride's family already had to go through to pay her dowry and because traditionally it is a great dishonor to the family.[12]

Regional differences[edit]

Women in elite urban districts of Pakistan enjoy a far more privileged lifestyle than those living in rural tribal areas. Women in urbanized districts typically lead more elite lifestyles and have more opportunities for education. Rural and tribal areas of Pakistan have an increasingly high rate of poverty and alarmingly low literacy rates. In 2002 it was recorded that 81.5 percent of 15- to 19-year-old girls from high-income families had attended school while 22.3 percent of girls from low-income families had ever attended school.[4] In comparison, it was recorded that 96.6 percent of Pakistani boys ages 15–19 coming from high-income families had attended schooling while 66.1 percent of 15- to 19-year-old boys from low-income families had attended school.[4] Girls living in rural areas are encouraged not to go to school because they are needed in the home to do work at a young age. In most rural villages, secondary schooling simply does not exist for girls, leaving them no choice but to prepare for marriage and do household tasks. These rural areas often have inadequate funding and schooling for girls is at the bottom of their priorities.


In 2008, it was recorded that 21.8 percent of females were participating in the labor force in Pakistan while 82.7 percent of men were involved in labor.[13] The rate of women in the labor force has an annual growth rate of 6.5 percent. Out of the 47 million employed peoples in Pakistan in 2008, only 9 million were women and of those 9 million, 70 percent worked in the agricultural sector. The income of Pakistani women in the labor force is generally lower than that of men, due in part to a lack of formal education.[13]

Due to the religious and cultural values in Pakistan, women who do try to enter the workforce are often pushed into the lower of the three employment structures. This structure level, unorganized services sector, has low pay, low job security and low productivity. In order to improve this situation, governmental organizations and political parties need to push for the entrance of women into the organized services sector.[14]

Although these religious and cultural barriers exist keeping women away from the workforce, studies have shown that women-only entrepreneurial training that allows participants to develop capital and competences, can break these down. Programs such as this can go a long way in an Islamic socio-cultural context to develop tolerance and understanding.[15]

Effect of the lack of women in the workforce on economic growth[edit]

Women are subjected to severe employment discrimination in Pakistan. Clearly the low female literacy rate is a large obstacle in women taking part in the workforce. In addition, today females make up only 15% of the formal labor force in Pakistan, and although this is almost triple what is was 20 years ago, this is still a very dismal amount.[16] Pakistan's policy makers worry that increasing the women's workforce will increase the unemployment level. However, Pakistan is largely missing out on economic growth through foreign investment as manufacturing service industries today employ large numbers of women from Mexico to Bangladesh.[16] In addition, “for Pakistan to significantly improve its female labor force participation rates, it will have to address a range of structural barriers and social constraints, many of which are reinforced by Islamization”("Gender Disparities, Economic Growth and Islamization in Pakistan."). Islam has not promoted women's rights in the workforce since it values women as keepers of the family honor, gender segregation and institutionalization of gender disparities.[16] Furthermore women who do work are often paid less than minimum wage, because they are seen as lesser beings in comparison to men, and “their working conditions vis-à-vis females are often hazardous; having long working hours, no medical benefits, no job security, subjected to job discrimination, verbal abuse and sexual harassment and no support from male oriented labor unions”(An In-Depth Analysis of Women's Labor Force Participation in Pakistan).


Pakistan's constitution places no constraints on female participation in government. In 1988, Benazir Bhutto became the first female prime minister of a Muslim state and is Pakistan's first and only female prime minister to date.[17]

Women's rights violations related to violence[edit]

Studies done by several organizations show that has been a 13% increase in violence against women in Pakistan in the year 2009.[18] Rape, gang-rape, domestic violence, honour killing (Karo Kari), vani (exchange of women in settling the disputes), and forced/child marriages are some examples of women's rights violations that have occurred in Pakistan.[19] Honour killing, or Karo Kari, is one example of the many violent actions against women especially, in Pakistani society. Honour killing occurs when a family member because they have dishonored the family with acts that are viewed as immoral.[18] There is also the common and accepted (domestic violence), in which husbands beat their wives when upset. In addition to this form of violence against women, their rights in rural areas are even fewer as women are plagued with fear of acid attacks, forced marriages, vigilante justice, mutilations, etc.

Women's rights Pakistani NGOs[edit]

Pakistani civil society has produced a significant number of big and small, courageous NGOs which work to improve Pakistani women's global situation and particularly to prevent violence against women, for instance:

Notable Pakistani women[edit]

Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani girl who stood up for the education of young girls and was shot by the Taliban.[6] Due to the amount of press coverage after the shooting, millions of people around the world gained awareness about the low percentage of girls who were receiving an education in many countries.[22] Malala has inspired many people, to share their voices and terminate the silence that comes with oppressive issues, such as the lack of education for women.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Chapter 1: "Fundamental Rights" of Part II: "Fundamental Rights and Principles of Policy"". The Constitution of Pakistan. Pakistani.org. Retrieved 2014-08-21. 
  2. ^ Jafri, Owais (2014-05-24). "Crime against women: Man given 2 life terms for acid attack on wife". The Express Tribune. Retrieved 2014-08-21. 
  3. ^ a b "Statistics | Pakistan". UNICEF. Retrieved 2014-08-21. 
  4. ^ a b c d Lloyd, Cynthia. "Rural girls in Pakistan: Constraints of policy and culture" (PDF) 1 (1): 105–110. Retrieved 2010-01-16. 
  5. ^ Qureshi, Rashida (2007). "1". Gender and Education in Pakistan (Hardcover) (1st ed.). Oxford: University Press. 
  6. ^ a b Nargis, Sultana. "Right to Education for Girls in Pakistan: Malala's Struggle Must Continue". Retrieved 25 April 2014. 
  7. ^ "70pc of new schools in KP will be for girls - Pakistan". Dawn.Com. Retrieved 2014-08-21. 
  8. ^ "KP readies to start more girls' schools". Oman Tribune. Retrieved 2014-08-21. 
  9. ^ "2 girls colleges to be established". The News. 23 May 2014. Retrieved 2014-08-21. 
  10. ^ a b Ghosh, Palash. "Child Marriage Should Be Legal: Pakistani Legal Advisory Body". IBT Media. Retrieved 16 April 2014. 
  11. ^ "PAKISTAN: Apathy of the State and the Civil Society towards a Violence Called Dowry". Retrieved 10 April 2014. 
  12. ^ Danka, Mutfi. "JAHEZ (Dowry Conditions Set by the Groom for Marriage)" (PDF). Retrieved 15 April 2014. 
  13. ^ a b Hayat, Malik. "Pakistan Employment Trends for Women" (PDF). Labour Market Information and Analysis Unit (Ministry of Labour and Manpower) 5 (2): 13–17. Retrieved 2010-01-13. 
  14. ^ Mahpara, B. S.; Qurra-tul-ain, A. S. (2011). "Employment situation of women in pakistan". International Journal of Social Economics 38 (2): 98–113. doi:10.1108/03068291111091981. 
  15. ^ Muhammad, A. R.; Harrison, P. (2010). "Behind the veil: Women-only entrepreneurship training in pakistan". International Journal of Gender and Entrepreneurship 2 (2): 150–172. doi:10.1108/17566261011051017. 
  16. ^ a b c Coleman, Isobel. "Gender Disparities, Economic Growth and Islamization in Pakistan". Council on Foreign Relations. 
  17. ^ "Benazir Bhutto: Daughter of Tragedy" by Muhammad Najeeb, Hasan Zaidi, Saurabh Shulka and S. Prasannarajan, India Today, 7 January 2008
  18. ^ a b "Pakistani Women's Human Rights Organization (PWHRO)". Retrieved 16 April 2014. 
  19. ^ "Mukhtar Mai Women's Organisation". Retrieved 15 April 2014. 
  20. ^ Positive Pakistanis: Sister act
  21. ^ Women’s Rights Activists Under Attack in Pakistan
  22. ^ Yousafzai, Malala. "The Malala Fund". The Malala Fund. Retrieved 29 April 2014. 


  • Malik, Iftikhar (2006). Culture and Customs of Pakistan (Hardcover) (1st ed.). Connecticut: Greenwood Press. 
  • Lloyd, Cynthia. "Rural girls in Pakistan: Constraints of policy and culture" (PDF) 1 (1): 105–110. Retrieved 2010-01-16. 
  • Qureshi, Rashida (2007). "1". Gender and Education in Pakistan (Hardcover) (1st ed.). Oxford: University Press. 
  • Ferdoos, Abmer. "Social Status of Rural and Urban Working Women in Pakistan" (PDF). der Universität Osnabrück: 46–53. Retrieved 2010-01-13. 
  • Hayat, Malik. "Pakistan Employment Trends for Women" (PDF). Labour Market Information and Analysis Unit (Ministry of Labour and Manpower) 5 (2): 13–17. Retrieved 2010-01-13. 
  • Okkenhaug, Marie (2005). Gender, Religion, and Change in the Middle East (Hardcover) (1st ed.). New York: Berg Publishers. 
  • Brown, Louise (2006). The Dancing Girls of Lahore (Hardcover) (1st ed.). New York: HarperCollins. 
  • Mandelbaum, David (1988). Women's Seclusion and Men's Honor (Hardcover) (1st ed.). Tucson: The University of Arizona Press. 
  • Roald, Anne (2002). Women in Islam (Hardcover) (1st ed.). New York: Routledge. 
  • Ahmed, Amineh (2006). Sorrow and Joy among Muslim Women (Hardcover) (1st ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]