Status of Women

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The Status of Women in Pakistan: A Muslim majority state and the 21st century. Neshay Najam
Lahore, Pakistan

"All citizens are equal before 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 national life".
"The state shall protect the marriage, the family, the mother… "The state shall…[ensure] that…women are not employed in vocations unsuited to their sex alone…" Constitution of Pakistan
Articles 25, 27, 35, 37.

"Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person. Men and women of full age without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry or to have a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage and its dissolution. Marriage shall be entered in to only with the free and full consent of the attending spouses. The family is the natural and fundamental group, unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and state." Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 3 & 16.

According to Farkhanda Lodhi; a spirited feminist writer and an ex-chief librarian at the Government College, Lahore says in an interview with The Daily Dawn, November 27, 2001: "Man is a moment but woman is life."

All these beautifully constructed sentences take a180 degrees turn while considering the status of specifically 'women' in Pakistan. Our women still seem to be living in the dark ages. It is a matter of deep sorrow that being Muslims we have completely forgotten the status of women given by Islam. Annie Bessant in her book, 'The Life and Teachings of Mohammad (P.B.U.H)' says, "I often think that women are more free in Islam than in Christianity. Women are more respected by Islam then by the faith which preaches monogamy."

Islam was the first religion to recognize the equality of sexes and granted women rights unheard of 1400 years ago. Their other tragedy lies in the fact that what was highly progressive in those early days of Islam and which ought to have been kept in step with the changing of the realities of life through Ijtehad, was frozen in that position through retrogressive interpretation of religious edicts. In addition to that, male chauvinism and cultural taboos, some of them derived from the Hindu society have combined to keep our women down.

In Pakistan the story of a woman's deprivations start even before her birth, because the girl-child is not a particularly 'wanted' child. Her life is a journey of subordination. When she is young her father decides for her on matters ranging from whether she will get any education, to the all important matters of whom she would marry. After marriage, her husband and her in-laws get hold of her reins and decide matters on her behalf; like shall she or shall she not have a child every year, or whether she would produce only boys, or whether she can seek independent employment and so on. Finally when she becomes old and her husband gets weak or may have gone already, it is her son or sons who decide her fate in the declining years of her life. As if this is not enough, the whole society acts as an oppressor, browbeating her in to obedience. Thus, the word 'woman' in Pakistan is synonymous with 'endurance'. She is simply forced to accept certain bare facts of life once she grows up...
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