Rights have been a paramount subject of consideration for humankind since times forever. We, being a civilized species, have approached a consensus over the rights after millenniums long journey of history, and presently, there exists a more or less global consensus that human rights are inherent to all human beings irrespective of their gender, ethnicity, color, or language etcetera. Extending the very subject, the rights of women are guaranteed peculiar importance and there is hardly any gibberish over their recognized status. Contrary to the rest of the world, the rights of women appear to be perceived as ‘an annual matter of discussion’ in our society. Woefully, Only on a specific day, a specific fragment of society rises their concerns about women's rights, and even their concerns are very specific, addressing only a specific fragment of women.
This muddled approach towards women's rights or the status of women, pushes towards an inevitable thought that our society is an extremist society. We are extremists in terms that we, as a nation, rarely adopt any balanced approach. We sway between the extremes whether it be an extreme of conservativeness or an opposite extreme of modernity.
The dilemma of conservatives is that they altogether reject the sufferings of women in our society and contrarily, modernists stretch the sufferings of women far beyond the actual context and ultimately make their stance irrelevant to our society.
In recent years, newer waves of westernization have landed the horizons of Pakistani society. Western Ideas of gender-equality, working-women, liberality, consensus, and abortion etcetera are no more alien to Pakistani women, especially the educated ones. As with every other imported narrative, this acted as a double-edged sword. Pakistani women got a consciousness of their rights and it ultimately pushed the hard-liner patriarchal society to slacken the suppression of women. As of 2021, more females than males have secured admission for higher learning at Punjab University Lahore, mentioning only one educational institution. The ratio of female students in educational institutions of Pakistan is exceeding 45%. Not limited only to get an education but females have also been securing distinguished positions in all practical fields of life.
Despite all these optimistic gestures, the grievances of women are also rising at the same time. Work-place harassment has been consistently increasing at our institutions. Even in the 21st century, there are places in Pakistan where women are not entitled to vote, Dhurnal village in Chakwal district of Punjab is only one example. As the honor of a family is still associated with women, So Pakistan has the highest number of documented and estimated honor killings per capita of any country in the world. Forced religious conversion of girls, particularly of Hindu minority in Sindh province of Pakistan, is another vital case of human rights abuses. Pakistan is globally notorious for the cases of domestic violence and it has further increased amid the corona virus. Such utter human rights abuses caused to women in Pakistan can not be over-passed.
The remedy lies in a balanced approach to address these issues. We must struggle collectively to ensure those rights for women that have been guaranteed by Islam 1400 years ago but suppressed by our traditionalist conservative society since times immemorial. Though the slogans like “same-sex marriages” and “absolute free consent” have hardly any resemblance to the issues faced by women of our society; but an end to workplace harassment, laws to ensure the share of women in inheritance, an end to domestic violence, and so forth are unanimously recognized matters. The biases should be put behind and a balanced approach must be equipped to uproot this deep-seated predicament of our society. We are living in the twenty-first century, and the traditional status of women has been left far behind. We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back, so an end to women’s rights abuses is the first and fundamental step to move forward onto the highway of civility and prosperity.
Written by: Usama Shahzad Cheema
A student of Law at Punjab University, Lahore.