“Social progress can be measured by the social position of female gender”
Women are part of the larger society. And thus many problems are common to both genders and are associated with their economic class. Thus both genders of working and middle class, which make up 90 per cent of population, face similar problems like poverty, access to quality education, healthcare, lack of social security, old age benefits, unemployment and overall poor quality of life. Both women and men of ruling and upper middle class are more or less exempt from these hardships.
Economically uplifting working and lower middle class will to a large extent address or mitigate many of these problems. For example when parents have to make decisions about educating their children and the financial resources are limited, they prefer to send male children to school. Similarly male child is preferred when healthcare funds are allocated because they are considered an insurance against old age poverty. When jobs are scarce, males are given priority as they are supposed to be the breadwinners for the whole family. If the social benefits are provided to all citizens and there is enough to take care of all basic human needs and families don’t have to prioritise distribution of resources and every citizen, women, men and transgenders, will have equality of access to all resources and opportunities, this kind of discrimination will automatically end. This has been addressed in other sections of our program.
However, women have to face some special problems exclusively based on their gender. These are social, cultural and traditional taboos which are sometimes perpetuated in the name of religion. Some of these problems are listed below:
Honor killing: Women and sometimes men are killed based on the belief that they have disgraced or dishonoured the family/community/tribe. The tragedy is that the law actually protects the perpetrators who are most commonly family members.
Domestic violence: Women and children are the most common target of this kind of violence by close family members. It may be physical, emotional, economic or sexual.
Sexual Harassment: Faced by all women who dare to step out side the home, for work, pleasure or other needs. It ranges from unwanted staring to actual molestation.
Acid throwing: This is a hate crime which seems to be most common in the subcontinent and women are its only target, perpetrated by men who feel women should always submit to their demands and are punished if they don’t.
Lack of independence and decision making power: Women are deprived to make any decisions even in the most vital spheres of they lives like marriage, education and jobs resulting in low literacy rate for women, negligible role in the economic sphere of the country and marriage at young age. This also restricts their movement in the public space, freedom to just walk in bazars, for entertainment, and work is very much restricted. A lone woman outside home is never safe and this is further used as an excuse to limit their freedom.
Overall lower social position in the society: Many dogmas, traditions and religious text are used to put down women and place them inferior to men not just in physical power but also intellect.
Dowery abuse: It is the explicit or implicit expectation of monetary, property or other gifts from brides family to the groom.
Women, throughout history and across all cultures and socioeconomic strata have been subjected to all kinds of sufferings, inequities, injustices, oppression and harassments. Their contributions to the society go unnoticed, unacknowledged and unrewarded. If their work is measured in monetary terms, it will amount to trillions of dollars in GDP.
Legal equality in the developed countries has improved the situation somewhat but majority of women of the world continue to suffer.
Pakistan’s constitutions, articles, 25,27,35,37:
All citizens are equal before the law and are entitled to equal protection of law.
There shall be no discrimination on the basis of sex alone.
No citizen otherwise qualified for appointment in the service of Pakistan shall be discriminated against in respect of any such appointment on the ground only of…sex…
Steps shall be taken to ensure full participation of women in all spheres of life.
The state shall protect the mirage, the family, the mother…
Universal Declaration of Human Rights to which Pakistan is a signatory:
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights
Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind…
All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law…
Men and women of full age…are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution
Marriage should be entered into with the free and full consent of the intending spouses
Everyone has the right to equal access to public service in her/his country. Mother and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance.
Founder of the nation, Mohammad Ali Jinnah said, “It is a crime against humanity that all women are confined within the four walls of their homes like prisoners. They should stand side by side with men as their companions and in all spheres of life.” But the situation in Pakistan is completely opposite to that. Gender disparities are severe and pervasive. Pakistan ranks the lowest in relation to gender related development.
The Gender Gap Index 2015 published by the World Economic Forum reports gender gaps in economy, politics, education and health. Pakistan ranks second lowest,143 out of 144 countries. It was 143 in economic participation, 136 in education, 140 in health and survival and 95 in political empowerment. A world bank report identified 14 laws in Pakistan that limit women’s economic opportunities compared against 22 laws in Afghanistan, 5 in India, 7 in Sri Lanka, 9 in Nepal and 1 in Maldives.
The UN Women in Pakistan released a report titled Progress of
World’s Women 2015-2016: Transforming Economies, Realizing
Rights on July 29. This report compares 71 countries on gender equality of family laws over a 30 year period (1975-2005). Pakistan was amongst the 38 countries where laws favouring men and giving them greater proprietary rights over property and limit women’s options for divorce continued.
Official figures show MMR (maternal mortality Ratio)) is the lowest in Punjab with 227 and the highest in Balochistan with 785 deaths per 100,000 live births. Pakistan’s global ranking in MMR dropped from 147th last year to 149,th among a total of 178 countries, according to Save the Children’ 16 State of the World’s Mothers Report titled, “The Urban Disadvantage”, released in May 2015.The report said the MMR was 2.5 times more among the poor as compared to the rich in urban areas of Pakistan.
Child marriages remain another serious problem. 21 per cent girls marrying before the age of 18. A major cause of the perpetuation of this problem is pressure from the religious establishment. A proposal submitted to parliament in January 2016 aiming to raise the legal minimum age to 18 for females and harsher penalties for those who arrange child marriages had to be withdrawn following strong pressure from Council of Islamic Ideology.
According to Pakistani human rights NGOs there are about 1000 honour killings, acid attacks, domestic violence and forced marriages every year.
All the development and progress and size of economy is meaningless unless all members of a society have the opportunity to develop their full potential and are able to lead a productive and fulfilling lives.
if half of the populations is subjugated to the other half and not allowed to reach its full potential and till all the weak segments of society are lifted up and given equal rights. After all the real wealth of a nation is its people. Pakistan can never develop its full potential and join the community of developed countries unless all discriminations and hurdles in the way of women and other affected segments of population are removed.
Equal pay for equal work will be ensured with minimum income to all those who are willing to work.
- Paid maternity and paternity leave of one year for all families for unto 2 children
- Subsidized child care for up to 2 children for all working families
- Establish a system of socialized food preparation, laundry, and other house work for consenting families on cooperative basis to free women’s time for more creative and economically productive activities
- Provision of safe and comfortable public transport for working women
- Protection from sexual harassment
- Making new laws and implementation of existing laws ensuring their freedom of choice about the issues directly impacting their lives like marriage, education, career through policies and legal vehicles.
- Especial focus on women health issues.
- Free of cost maternity services for up to two children for each family.
Public education to change social attitudes towards women using various media and other means.