The Dangers of Being a Woman in Pakistan

Featured Illustration: Amani Haydar

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Women in Pakistan have a long history of mistreatment due to the patriarchal society that is still very much alive, not only in Pakistan but in several other countries as well. Pakistan is known to be the sixth most dangerous country for women. A few examples of issues women face in Pakistan consist of domestic violence, marital rape, and forced marriage. It is important to remember that many women do not report violence inflicted on them out of fear. This has a significant impact on the statistics of violence against women in Pakistan. Women often do not come forward about the abuse they face, knowing very well that the justice system is flawed.

For women who grew up in Pakistan and saw such violence inflicted on their mothers, it becomes normalized behavior to them.

When their husbands or other men in their life do the same, they think that is what men are supposed to do. However, many agree that there has been a significant improvement over the years. Nonetheless, these issues pertaining to women are still ongoing, which is affecting their way of living and their human rights. Self-proclaimed clerics in Pakistan promote the mistreatment of women and use Islam as proof, which is often fabricated. Religion and culture have been confused for a very long time — this is due to people who follow the religion and misinterpret it, whereas these injustices originate from a patriarchal society that is deeply rooted in hatred for women. I will be highlighting a few important scholars who have studied women in Pakistan.

Sanchitta Bhattacharya explains in detail why such inequalities occur due to the misinterpretation of the Quran in Pakistan. It is common in Pakistan, especially for self-proclaimed righteous men, to justify violence against women in the name of Islam — they incite violence with their false understanding of the Quran. Sanchitta Bhattacharya discusses how women can be aware of their rights through education and awareness. She demonstrates a plan on how private sectors should provide job opportunities for women in low-income neighborhoods — this will help women become independent on their own and not have to rely on their husbands or any other men in their life for money. Financial dependency plays a huge role in why many women choose not to leave abusive relationships.

Filomena Critelli describes organizations such as Dastak that have played a critical role to counter gender violence in Pakistan. The organization has made a significant impact on politics by bringing attention to gender violence to those in power. Dastak has placed great importance on human rights and continues to challenge cultural norms that are engraved in violence against women. This is significant to know for the topic of violence against women in Pakistan, as there are several organizations in Pakistan aimed to help women in need. There is a great need for organizations such as Dastak to help prevent violence against women — if no one is taking a stand, then such issues will continue to prevail. Organizations such as Dastak help women and raise awareness at the same time, which is greatly needed for women in Pakistan. 

Abdul Hakim and Azra Aziz, both scholars, suggest the history of Hindu and Islamic values that have been ingrained in society. Religious teachings being misinterpreted has caused women to be restricted in participating in nearly every aspect of society. There have been stereotypical gender roles enforced on women for years — this has caused women to remain in the traditional gender roles that their mothers and grandmothers have passed down for generations. 

Muhammad Jehanzeb Noor highlights the severe issues women face in Pakistan by focusing on violence endured by Pakistani women in their households from their husbands, in-laws, etc. The scholar discusses the point that women need to assert their rights, although they will face backlash for this. By asserting these rights, the discourse will change for many women and inspire them to do the same. Moreover, the author brought up what could happen to Pakistan due to the uncertainty of the future in Pakistan for women.

Given the historical perspective of how women have been viewed for ages, there is no equality in abusive marriages, and this causes violence to arise when the man in the relationship believes that he has power over the woman. By understanding their mindset and why they do such things, it shows where these ideologies started and how we can end them. It is clear that many misinterpret the Quran and use it as false evidence to entice violence against women. From encouraging men to hit their disobedient wives to killing their sisters who were caught seen with a boy, many self-proclaimed clerics in Pakistan know the power they hold and therefore continue to spread such messages.

Pakistan, just like many other countries in South Asia, has corrupt governments and legal systems which give women a low chance of getting justice for the crimes that have been committed against them. There have been some cases where women do proceed to file a lawsuit against their abusers, which has inspired other women to come forward as well. It is important to continue to talk about these issues, as it could lead to worse outcomes if it is not addressed. 

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References:

  • Bhattacharya, S. (2014). Status of women in Pakistan. Journal of the Research Society of Pakistan, 51(1).
  • Critelli, F. M. (2010). Women’s rights Human rights: Pakistani women against gender violence. J. Soc. & Soc. Welfare, 37, 135.
  • Foundation, T. (n.d.). The world’s five most dangerous countries for women 2018. Retrieved September 30, 2020. 
  • Hakim, A., & Aziz, A. (1998). Socio-cultural, religious, and political aspects of the status of women in Pakistan. The Pakistan development review, 727-746.
  • Noor, M. J. (2004). Daughters of Eve: Violence against women in Pakistan (Doctoral dissertation, Massachusetts Institute of Technology).
  • Zakar, R., Zakar, M. Z., & Kraemer, A. (2013). Men’s beliefs and attitudes toward intimate partner violence against women in Pakistan. Violence against women, 19(2), 246-268.