Almost all nations have a history of mistreating women, regardless of how progressive they are. To achieve the status that women have today, they have had to be rebellious throughout history. Being empowered is significant. It’s important to realize that power is a right, not just a privilege. Its flexibility to adapt to social, political, economic, and religious conditions is what makes this concept so appealing. Pakistan’s position in the Women’s Peace and Security Index (WPS) of 167th out of 170 countries predicts the pathetic condition of women living in Pakistan.
According to Article 25 of the Pakistani Constitution, equality before the law of men and women stresses that there shall be no discrimination on the basis of gender. Unfortunately, discrimination still exists as a result of poor governance and out-of-date traditions. Despite the fact that there are laws for the protection of women, they continue to be restrained, injured, stabbed and assaulted. Many Pakistani women have not realized their full potential as a result of irrational societal and cultural preconceptions. It takes effort for them to be able to acquire resources and even their legal rights.
Understanding the matter better
Pakistan and other developing nations continue to lag behind in empowering women due to a number of unaddressed issues. In Pakistan, domestic abuse and forced marriages go unreported. The practice of honor killing is mostly repeated due to a lack of education and so-called honor in different societies in Pakistan. Islam strictly prohibits murder and killing without legal justification. Moreover, the education and freedom scenario is very regressive. Only 13% of Pakistani girls complete grade nine, leaving 12 million girls out of the classroom. According to a report by Human Rights Watch 2022, girls miss school due to a variety of issues, such as a lack of facilities, the expense of attending classes, child marriage, harmful child labor, and gender discrimination.
Women get married young and cannot pursue higher education. Early child marriage is still a major issue in Pakistan, mostly in rural areas where it is not reported due to the tribal mindset. According to the Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey (PDHS) 2017–2018, 18.3 percent of girls married off are under 18 and 3% are under 15 years of age. Forced marriages continue to be a problem that disproportionately affects women in religious minority societies.
In addition, domestic violence is a major problem in Pakistan and is on the rise. According to the PDHS, 7% of pregnant women have experienced violence during their pregnancy, and 34% of married women have gone through physical, sexual, or emotional violence. Out of which, the most common one is emotional violence (26%), followed by physical violence (23%), and 5% have experienced sexual violence. Spousal abuse is rarely considered a crime socially until things escalate to murder or attempted murder. Women are mostly afraid to speak up against injustices in marriages.
They are urged to remain patient by their own families out of fear of divorce, and they manipulate them to reach all levels to save their marriage, even if her mental and physical health or, in some cases, her life is at stake. It’s about time that people understand that a divorced daughter is better than a dead one if such dire circumstances arise.
Islam has elevated the status of women so highly, but our people fail to recognize that status. A person asked the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), “What right does the wife of one of us have over him?” His answer was, “It is that you shall give her food, you shall not slap her on the face, nor revile her, nor leave her alone except within the house” (Ahmad, Abu Da’ud, and Ibn Majah).
This implies provision, residence, respect, and security. Islam has encouraged empowering women, but our people value outdated culture over religion while claiming to be devout. Empowered women have more control and responsibility over their own lives. It calls for actions to change the institutions and structures that support and maintain discrimination, such as increasing awareness, expanding choices, boosting self-confidence, and enhancing access to and control over resources and choices.
Women’s empowerment is a societal issue that impacts a significant portion of society and has far-reaching effects; it does not just affect women. The benefits of empowered women and girls’ contributions to their families, communities, and countries benefit all parties. Numerous studies have shown that the empowerment of women is essential for sustainable development. Experience has demonstrated that countries with educated and fairly treated women advance quickly.
It starts at home; a liberated mother frees her family as a whole. In order to empower women, it is important to create environments that are both safe and educational. Therefore, there is an essential need to understand that women play a significant role in ensuring bright futures. We must empower women if we want to develop as a country. Hence, real development is extremely difficult, if not impossible, without strong female empowerment.
Hafsa Sherani is a Research Assistant at Balochistan Think Tank Network. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.