The Causes OF Female Backwardness In Pakistan And An Appraisal Of The Contribution That Women Can Make To The Effort Of Nation's Development:
• Causes Of Female Backwardness In Pakistan
i) Socio-Economic Causes
a) Lack Of Access To Resources
e) Deplorable Health Level
ii) Cultural And Traditional Causes
a) Male Dominant Culture And Feudalism
b) Heinous Customs
• Dowry System
iii) Violence Against Women
a) Honour Killing
b) Bride Burning
c) Sexual Harassment And Rape
d) Acid Throwing
iv) Political Causes
a) Low Political Representation
b) Rotten Governance
v) Legal Causes
a) Discriminatory Laws
vi) Religious Causes
a) Misinterpretation Of Islam
b) Narrow-Minded Religious Approaches
• Role Of Women In The Development Of Our Nation
i) Socio-Economic Role
ii) Cultural Role
iii) Educational Role
iv) Political Role
Quaid-e-Azam said in speech in 1944,
“No nation can rise to the height of glory unless your women are side by side with you; we are victims of evil customs. It is a crime against humanity that our women are shut up within the four walls of the houses as prisoners.”
Women are the integral part of a society. They are entitled to equality in every sphere of life. Phenomenal changes have taken place across the world in recent year, but the status and fate of women has not changed much. In Pakistan, their situation has become worse. We were recently rated as one of the worst countries in the world when it comes to the way we treat women. More than 60 years after independence, 80 per cent of Pakistani women are still subjected to domestic violence. 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. We are also among a handful of countries where there is a negative sex ratio of 100 women to 108 men. Though women have potential to play a multidimensional role from societal to organizational yet they have been neglected. Their dismal condition is proving a bolt from blue for our country. Our country’s backwardness can directly be attributed to the denied role of women in country’s development.
Lack of access
to resources including finance, land, inheritance, rights, education, employment, justice, healthcare and nutrition are major causes of female backwardness in Pakistan. It is widely acknowledged that a combination of poverty and the low status awarded to women is indeed a major problem. Many women die from childbirth on account of poor health facilities. And more than half the women in the country cannot read and write.
Pakistan inherited the menace of poverty
with its inception in 1947. The burden of this poverty fell heavily on the female population which makes the 50% of the total population of Pakistan. Women are neglected and under-nourished. They are restricted to the four walls and are meant to perform only household work. They are deprived of their rightful share of property and have no say in family decisions. All the government s have tried in one way or the other to develop women but could not make a very happy progress because of various reasons.
The constitution of Pakistan provides full participation of women in all spheres of life, but the literacy rate in females i
s just 36% as compared to men that is 64%. The ratio of primary schools for girls and boys is 4 and 10 respectively. Such attitude of discrimination is not new in the educational system of Pakistan. Religiously, people are of the view that Islam does not permit a women or girls to step beyond the limits of house. Modern education can make her a party girl instead of making her a house wife. That’s why Taliban are blasting and attacking the girl’s schools in Swat and Northern areas of Pakistan. However, the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) strongly emphasized on education by saying that,
“It is the prime duty of men and women to acquire education”.
Not only this, but women are also denied of doing any job
and earn their livelihood. Their occupational choices are limited due to social and cultural constraints and inherent gender bias in the labour market. They also lack supportive facilities such as childcare, transport and accommodation in the formal sector of the labour market. Women’s labour power is considered inferior because of employers’ predetermined notion of women’s primary role as homemakers. As a result of discrimination against female labour, their role is low paid, and lack potential upward mobility.
The health indicators
of women in Pakistan are among the worst in the world. It is one of the few countries where women’s life expectancy is lower than that of men. Female infant mortality rate is higher (85 per 1000 live births) than that of male children (82 per 1000 live births). More than 40 per cent of the total female population are anaemic. The maternal mortality rate is still high, 1 women in every 38 dies from pregnancy-related caused. The low health status of women is the result of women’s lower social, economic and cultural status. 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 and intensify their disadvantaged health status.
In patriarchal Pakistani society,
women are mere symbol of family honour and dignity. They are considered as private property. Prevailing feudal culture has confined women to home to ‘save male honour and dignity’. Feudal lords implement their code of morality in the name of “tradition and custom”. Under such customs women have no control over their lives. They don’t have right to choice-marriage. Girl education is strongly discouraged and women tolerate oppressive norms in the name of morality.
Swara and Vani
are such type of heinous crimes that are deeply upheld by the stone-age minded people. In both of the customs, the minor girls are given as compensation for the wrongdoing perpetrated by one of the members of the culprit family on the aggrieved one. Girls as young as 10 years of age are married with 60 years old man under such customs.
is another form of social and traditional practices. There is hardly any family in Pakistan in which this system is not followed. Not a single day passes without dowry deaths and torture of women. Newspapers are full of stories of torture of women who bring insufficient dowry. Unable to bear the torture, some brides are forced to commit suicide. This practice of dowry does, in fact, violate Islamic Laws. In Islam it is the man who pays the “Mehr” to the woman. Rather dowry is the right of the woman. The Quran highlights:
“And give women (on marriage) their dower as a free gift; but if they, of their own good pleasure, remit any part of it to you. Take it and enjoy it with right good cheer.” (An Nisa: 4)
Along with it, there have also been high-profile incidents of violence against women,
such alive burial. According to Dawn newspaper, the 2008 report of violence against women in Pakistan makes horrific reading. In that year alone, 7,733 cases of violence against women were reported in the media. What is shocking is the large number of women who lost their lives in this period — 1,516 were murdered while 472 were killed for reasons of ‘honour’.
is one of the worst forms of violence against women. It is an extreme form of direct physical violence, which is marked by great suffering. In recent years, Pakistan has been criticised because of the dramatic rise in the incidents of honour killings in the country. There is no concept of honour killing in Islam. Ignorant people holding outworn or traditional views try to prove to be just, right or reasonable with this act according to Islam. But the reality is this that it is totally against the true spirit of Islam. The Quran also make it clear: “Do not kill a soul which Allah made sacred except through the due process of law...” (6:151). Honour killing has no real basis in religion but is cheered and favoured by traditions and misinterpretation of religion. In fact the region is personal grievance and enmity for not bringing enough dowry or not following the orders of in-laws. There are many reasons for the increasing incidents of honour-killings. Because of the involvement of Pakistan in Afghan war that has been going on since 1979, almost in every part of the country, illegal weapons are easily available. People in Pakistan are generally aggressive in their action and thoughts. Poverty, unemployment and lack of economic property further strengthen this aggressiveness. Talbanisation of society is also an important factor in this concern.
is another form of inhuman domestic violence within the walls of the home. This is one of the most severe abuses of human rights. There are several reasons for bride burning but the major reason includes the failure of the wife’s family to provide a large enough dowry. The bride burning is not only against women’s rights but it is a serious crime against humanity as well. Unfortunately, this is being practised in Pakistan which is known as an Islamic society.
Even though an anti-sexual harassment law is active in Pakistan since March, it appears that working women still brave sexual harassment
at their places of work. They are still resigning from their jobs because of being asked for sexual favours. Furthermore, rape is one of the most common crimes against women in Pakistan. It is grossly unreported and legally distorted human rights issue. Women are therefore safe nowhere.
Moreover, acid throwing
is another abuse inflicted on women. The reasons it include not bringing sufficient amount of dowry, refusing marriage proposal, and in many cases it is done to take revenge. Human Rights Organisation indicates that every year almost 400 women all over the country become the victim of acid attacks mainly by their husbands and family members. But the unfortunate side is that many cases go unreported and victims remain at large. Corruption, less education and weak moral and religious values among law enforcement agencies in particular and society in general further deepen the gender-based bias.
Pakistan’s experiments with democracy and representative government have not been very encouraging for women. The tradition of reserved seats helped in bringing women representatives to the assemblies, but until 1990 they had only 10% seats in the National Assembly and 5% seats in the provincial assemblies. 25 Those few who represented women in the assemblies were either from politically influential families who had inherited the constituencies of their forefathers, or had ingratiated themselves with the ruler of the day. Even the election of a woman Prime Minister in 1988 and 1993 did not make a significant difference to the marginalisation of women in politics. Since 1990, women’s reserved seats have ceased to exist, and as a result women’s representation in the assemblies has fallen so low, that they can be counted on the fingers of one hand.
Government replete with problems has been failed to provide protection and safe environment to women. On account of poor governance
, women have remained second priority of every succeeding ruler. Though many bills and ordinances have been passed by the parliament but they remain totally ineffective in practical terms. Women are being victimized and persecuted in one form or the other.
A series of discriminatory law
s were introduced as a part of the process of Islamization by Zia-ul-Haq. The Hudood Ordinance promulgated in 1970 equated rape with adultery. The law evidence promulgated in 1984 denigrated women by reducing the value of the testimony of two women equal to one man in financial transactions. There are considerable evidences that these legislations have negatively impacted Pakistani women’s lives and made them more vulnerable to extreme violence. Today, majority of women in prison have been charged under the Hudood Ordinance. Their families use this legislation to punish them for trying to exercise their legal rights of self-discrimination. The equality enshrined in formal laws in negated by customary practices that allow the male members of the family to sell, buy, and exchange women as commodities and kill and murder them and de-facto realities of women’s life is too wide. Due to dependent socio-economic status, the suffering of women litigants is enormous.. Very often they lack the financial means to enter into litigation. Complicated legal procedures compounded by gender biases of judiciary and law enforcing agencies, delays, high cost of court fees, and corruption of the judiciary, make it extremely difficult for women to enter into litigation to get justice for themselves.
Islam is a comprehensive religion which gives women a great importance. But the narrow-minded and biased religious Ulemas
have always misinterpreted it to serve their wicked purposes. Contrary to Islamic commandments which give women right to work and earn money, right to expression of opinion, to refuse unsatisfactory husband and equal rights to receive equal recognition for her deeds, prejudiced Ulemas have underestimated and subjugated them. It amounts to neglect the real soul of Islam which gives women equality in every sphere of life.
Notwithstanding such gloomy condition, women still can play a greater role in the development of our nation
. They have a great potential to lift our nation which is rife with problems. God has bestowed them with all capabilities and their role in any sphere whether it is social, economic, political, cultural or educational cannot be ignored. We need to utilize their talent in right place and admit their stake in country’s progress.
Women have grater social role
to play. They can teach their children on right lines and inculcate in them morality. As a result, many prevailing social evils can be eradicated. They can contribute to the financial matters of the family. With ever rising prices and inflation, two earning people would surely help run the financial affairs of the family. Apart from the material gains, working women are self-actualised entities. Not only this, but they can also contribute to national exchequer by running small home industries.
The role of women in the transmission of cultural heritage
is of great significance. Women's involvement in various spheres of cultural heritage is both central and vital. Such spheres include what may be described as essential realms of culture, and those which are often indispensable in maintaining familial and cohesive social relations. They include language, codes of ethics, behavioural patterns, value systems, and religious beliefs. In most cultures, women maintain principle roles in the upbringing of children, through which the intergenerational transmission and renewal of many of these essential forms heritage occurs.
Furthermore, women can make a massive contribution in the field of education
. It is rightly said that if a male child is educated an individual is educated and if a girl is educated whole family is educated. Educated women can be instrumental in removing illiteracy from our soil. They can run home tuitions and teach poor females who cannot afford schooling. They can also impart various skills to them and enable them to earn money. In this way, they can be very supportive not only for their families but can also contribute to national exchequer.
Above all, women’s role in politics
is of utmost importance. They can represent the cause of women in the parliament and before the nation. They can voice their concerns and draw the attention of media to their problems and sufferings. Their representation in the parliament if fundamental to repel discriminatory laws meant to denigrate them. They can also play brighter role in creating awareness in women for the right use of their vote. Last but not least, their active role in politics can be advantageous to improve the distorting image of our country before the world.
What is really needed is a fundamental change in social attitudes
toward women, particularly in rural and tribal Pakistan. A massive effort is required to make both men and women aware of the need and the benefits of women's empowerment for a better future of Pakistan. Healthy, educated and empowered women can help raise better children to build Pakistan as a modern society that cares for its people. A number of non-governmental organizations such as AMAL, Aurat, Human Development Foundation (HDF), Edhi and other similar organizations deserve our support if we care for the enhancement of women's status in Pakistan. This can be made possible by ensuring following steps.
• Greater involvement of women in all fields should be ensured.
• Empowering women to unleash their potential.
• Provision of training for women to enable gainful employment in small-scale industries in rural and urban areas.
• Reservation of 10-15% seats for the recruitment of women in government and private sector.
• Increasing training facilities for women in traditional fields of teaching, nursing and birth attendants.
• Free education to poor family women should be provided.
• Different types of scholarships and subsidies should be provided to women.
• Female teachers should be appointed to provide safe environment to girls in single sex schools.
• Umbrella of labour legislation must be ensured.
• Discriminatory laws must be repelled.
• Strengthening the institutional framework for women development.
• International organizations such as the UN, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Red Cross, and the European Union should take serious notice of occurrences of honour killings in Pakistan.
• In the contemporary world, the importance of media cannot be denied. If government of Pakistan really aims to create an atmosphere of awareness towards women's rights, media can be used as an influential and effective tool.
• The role of religious leaders is also important because they have easy access to grass roots of society. In order to change the conservative approach of religious leaders, there should be workshops' training programmes, and seminars, in which religious scholars should be invited to discuss the problems related to women's rights.
To conclude with
, women of Pakistan are highly devoted towards their roles in the development of the country and they are emerging as politicians, social workers, lawyers, doctors, journalists, artists, pilots, army officers and founder of NGOs. They are promoting the cause of women’s status and role in the society. It must be admitted and applauded that these courageous women have not only created awareness among the fellow women about their strength and importance, but also have indicated the platforms where their demands could meet success. Now the time has come to actively integrate them in countries affairs so that we can faster the pace of progress of Pakistan. The task is very simple and we have to come out from the phobia of male superiority.