Patriarchy and Women’s Rights in Pakistan: The Perils of Patriarchal Rule

Gender, class, ethnicity, sectarianism, and religion are just some of the issues that Pakistan is facing. However, the inequality between women and men that permeates the social, political, and governmental structures of the country currently has a negative impact on the state. Pakistan is currently one of the most dangerous countries for women in the world, according to a global survey conducted by the Georgetown Institute. Despite being an Islamic state, a large number of Pakistanis have yet to learn about the rights of women from the teachings of Islam. While most Pakistani women face the oppression and violence of their relatives, the teachings of Islam provide comprehensive protection and safety for women. According to the Georgetown Institute, Pakistan ranks 164th out of 167 countries on the list of the most dangerous places for women due to the patriarchal nature of the society, which creates a cycle of gender-based violence. Surprisingly, Pakistan ranks fifth in the list for domestic violence practices, making it the 6th most dangerous country in the world for women.

Domestic surveys have revealed a worrying prevalence of economic violence among married women in Pakistan, with 70-90% of women in Punjab reported to have been subjected to various forms of abuse, such as physical, mental, and economic, by their unfaithful spouses. Despite concerted efforts to investigate the multifactored violence faced by women, the issue remains largely unknown. Economic violence, a form of male-driven violence, involves the use of devious tactics to control a woman’s access to, use, and control over economic resources, thereby compromising her financial stability and self-sufficiency. This heinous practice is prevalent in Pakistan and is manifesting itself in a variety of ways. Unfortunately, due to a lack of data, it is difficult to accurately assess the prevalence of economic violence amongst women in the country. Unfortunately, when research is conducted, this type of abuse is often mistakenly classified as emotional or psychological abuse, or, worse yet, is simply overlooked.

However, as the highest pillar of the state, the judiciary is given the most importance as it is responsible for ensuring just punishment in response to brutal attacks on women. It is the justice system’s responsibility to create a safe haven where women can start the difficult process of filing their cases while being shielded from the risks of an inhospitable environment. Inclusion of female jurists in both the higher and lower courts is crucial as it will provide women with a sense of recognition and empowerment as they file their cases before the judiciary. Furthermore, it is the justice system’s duty to prioritize gender-based violence and to resolve such heinous cases quickly and efficiently. Pakistan is still a patriarchal society where women are still fighting valiantly for their fundamental rights, despite the express guarantees of respect, security, and equality in Islam and in the 1973 Pakistani Constitution.

Despite numerous attempts to amend the Constitution to empower women in terms of political and economic empowerment, the state’s track record of law enforcement to protect women remains abysmal. Many female politicians, including Benazir Bhutto, have lost their lives due to their bravery in standing up to extremists and other anti-woman forces. Furthermore, women are frequently subjected to mistreatment by law enforcement bodies such as the law enforcement agencies and the military. Currently, the three main categories of Pakistani women are the upper-class, the middle-class, and the marginalized lower-class. The unequal treatment of each of these social groups contributes to a long-standing pattern of honor killing, forced labor, and violence against women, which is even extended to elected female members of the National Assembly, who are often ridiculed by their male peers. It is undeniable that Pakistani women possess the potential and capability to excel in any field of human endeavor.

Last but not least, it is important to sensitize key stakeholders, such as different tiers of healthcare delivery, media institutions, religious leaders, and the public at large, about the different forms of violence women face. However, it is worth noting that a whopping two thirds of women live in the countryside, where resources, technology, and financial resources are scarce. This indicates a huge gap in the intervention efforts.

Women in Pakistan are still subjected to deeply embedded cultural practices that are often oppressive, possessively, objectively, and exploitive in nature, making them nothing but a bargaining chip.

Women continue to live in a male-dominated, chauvinistic society in which their talents are stifled and their dreams are restricted. Their hard work and the support of their families have enabled the fortunate few to enjoy safety, security, and success within their careers. However, these chosen individuals lack the political and social clout to bring about change in society or to establish themselves as important pillars of the nation.

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