Gender inequality in Pakistan
October 20th, 2010
Pakistan’s founding father, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, proclaimed in a speech given at a meeting of the Muslim University Union, in Aligarh, on March 10, 1944, the following: “No nation can rise to the height of glory unless your women are side by side with you; we are victims of evil customs. It is a crime against humanity that our women are shut up within the four walls of the houses as prisoners. There is no sanction anywhere for the deplorable condition in which our women have to live.”1 Six decades have gone by since the independence of The Islamic Republic of Pakistan, and despite the Quid-e-Azam’s words of empowerment and the initial achievements made towards diminishing gender inequalities, true equality -social, political and legal- between gender remains a mere dream for the majority of Pakistani Women. The road towards emancipation has proven to be long and hard for this developing nation. The progressive efforts advanced by both the Muslim Family Ordinance of 1961 and the later Constitution of 1973 (which were respectively meant to ensure women’s rights in divorce, inheritance, and polygamy, and prohibited discrimination on the basis of sex), were curtailed by the installation of the Ziad Regime in 1979 and the subsequent passing of the Shariat Bill. Many activists argued that this law “would undermine the principles of justice, democracy, and fundamental rights of citizens, and…would become identified solely with the conservative interpretation supported by Zia’s government.”2 An example of the degradation of women’s status during this period is found in the 1979 Enforcement of Hudood Ordinances, which failed to discriminate between adultery (zina) and rape (zina-bil-jabr). “A man could be convicted of zina only if he were actually observed committing the crime by other men, but a woman could be convicted simply because she became pregnant.”3 As many scholars have acknowledged,...
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