The status of women in Pakistan varies considerably across classes, regions, and the rural/urban divide due to uneven socioeconomic development and the impact of tribal, feudal, and capitalist social formations on women's lives. The Pakistani women of today enjoy a better status than the past. However, on an average, the women's situation vis-à-vis men, is one of systemic gender subordination. Now due to a heightened awareness among people the educational opportunities for the Pakistani women increased in the previous years. Now women are playing vital role in all walks of life. The representation of women in Parliament is 20.6% in Lower House and 18.3% in Upper House as of 2015.

Under Pakistan's dual system of civil and Sharia law, females are considered equal under the law in religious practice, rights accorded to them by Pakistan's Islamic Republic constitution  outlawed gender discrimination on all levels.  However, women face significant challenges in society, the economy and face a slow lower courts judicial system in order to get justice. 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 15-24 year-olds; a highly significant factor given that 70% of Pakistan's population is under 30. However, the education 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. 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. 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.

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. 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.  A majority of women are married to their close relatives, i.e., first and second cousins. Only 37 percent of married women are not related to their spouses before marriage. The divorce rate in Pakistan is extremely low due to the social stigma attached to it.

Women are subjected to severe employment discrimination in Pakistan. Today females make up only 15% of the formal labour force in Pakistan, and although this is almost triple what is was 20 years ago, this is still a very dismal amount. Pakistan's policy makers worry that increasing the women's workforce will increase the unemployment level. In addition, for Pakistan to significantly improve its female labour force participation rates, it will have to address a range of structural barriers and social constraints, many of which are reinforced by Islamization. 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. 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, and no job security, subjected to job discrimination, verbal abuse and sexual harassment and no support from male oriented labour unions.

Violence against women and girls—including rape, “honour” killings, acid attacks, domestic violence, and forced marriage—remains a serious problem in Pakistan. There have been several thousand “honour” killings in Pakistan in the past decade, with hundreds reported in 2013. Provisions of the Islamic Qisas and Diyat law that allow the next of kin to “forgive” the murderer in exchange for monetary compensation remain in force and continue to be used by offenders to escape punishment.

Purdah norms are followed in many communities of Pakistan. In Pakistan, the women's access to property, education, employment etc. remains considerably lower compared to men's. The social and cultural context of Pakistani society is predominantly patriarchal. Women have a low percentage of participation in society outside of the family. Around 90% of the Pakistani households are headed by men and most female-headed households belong to the poor strata of the society. Women lack ownership of productive resources. Despite women's legal rights to own and inherit property from their families, there are very few women who have access and control over these resources.

 

 

 
 

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Copyright 2018, www.isaw.co.in. All rights reserved