Women’s Rights in Pakistan
A gender-based violence crisis in Pakistan is depriving millions of women in Pakistan of legal protection and leaving them fearful for their rights and livelihood. According to the Women, Peace and Security Index, Pakistan is ranked 167th out of 170 countries in terms of women’s health and wellbeing. In recent years, women in Pakistan have been engaging in protests to speak out against inequality and violence and demanding action from the government to improve women’s rights in Pakistan.

Domestic and Economic Abuses

Women in Pakistan suffer an alarmingly high rate of domestic violence. The United States Institute of Peace (USIP) estimates that 28% of women in Pakistan face some kind of physical violence in their lives before the age of 50. Because of the constant threat of violence against women, many women have to labor as domestic workers and often receive little to no wages as a result.

Women account for 49% of the Pakistani population but receive only 18% of its labor income, according to the USIP. The Pakistani government often denies legal protection and social security to women of low social classes, particularly home-based workers. The crisis of women’s rights in Pakistan is especially evident in environments like education and health care, where women cannot access social protections and face threats of violence.

In 2018, the U.N. reported that only 48.6% of Pakistani women had their reproductive health care needs satisfied by the resources available to them.

Because of these inequalities and injustices against women, women in Pakistan are more likely to live in poverty than men, while also carrying the burden of domestic work. Gender-based discrimination in education forces women at a social disadvantage. In 2021, the USIP found that women had a 22% lower literacy rate than men.

The relationship between social disadvantages, threats of violence and poverty is a vicious cycle for the women living in Pakistan. Because they experience discrimination in education and face threats of violence from men in power, they have to labor domestically and receive low wages, which keeps them in poverty.

Government and International Initiatives

The good news is that global organizations like the United Nations are not ignoring the crisis of women’s rights in Pakistan. In 2017, the U.N. initiated a three-year project called ‘The Economic Empowerment of Women Home-Based Workers and Excluded Groups in Pakistan.” The purpose of the initiative was to allow women, home-based workers, to effectively contribute to and benefit the economy of Pakistan.

This initiative benefited the private sector, the state, the women of Pakistan and the organization of the United Nations. Additionally, in 2020, the Pakistani Government passed an anti-rape ordinance that promised harsh punishments for those who commit sex crimes. This ordinance offers a higher degree of protection and security for women facing domestic violence.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Pakistani government has made small but essential improvements for victims of domestic violence including shelters, psychological support and national helplines. In 2021, USAID assisted the Pakistani government in providing counseling services to about 61,000 female survivors of domestic violence, improving the system of maternal health care and training public defenders on how to protect women’s rights in Pakistan under law.

Women Speaking Out

Women in Pakistan have not been silent in recent years about the injustices against them. In 2018, Pakistani women held the Aurat March on International Women’s Day. Thousands of women rallied across Pakistan to demand an end to the gender-based violence that has been sweeping Pakistan for decades, USIP reported. The march became an annual tradition and women have gathered to collectively use their voices and fight against gender and class-based oppression for the most recent four International Women’s Days.

These marches ensure that the public hears the voices and demands of the oppressed women in Pakistan. However, they also present an escalated threat of violence against women from the Taliban. Pakistan’s Taliban criticized the march, accusing it of being a “western agenda.”

The fight for women’s rights in Pakistan is not over and is making significant improvements year by year despite worrying reactions from the Pakistani Taliban. Pakistani women have organizations like the United Nations and the United States Institute of Peace fighting for social, political and economic justice. Equity and gender equality are necessary for Pakistan’s long-term development as a democracy, as well as its fight against violent extremism.

– Ella DeVries
Photo: Flickr

Women's Rights in Pakistan
A lot of progress has occurred to achieve women’s rights in Pakistan. However, gender inequality still remains a prominent issue. According to the World Economic Forum, the Global Gender Index Report ranks Pakistan second to last in domestic violence.

Fortunately, the government has taken significant action. In December 2020, Pakistan instilled a new anti-rape law to speed up convictions and toughen sentences. According to White Ribbon Pakistan, an estimated 4,734 women faced sexual violence between 2004 and 2016. Furthermore, there were over 15,000 cases of registered honor crimes and more than 1,800 cases of domestic violence. However, conviction rates remain low. Only 2.5% of all cases result in convictions. The new law requires sex offenders to be nationally registered. Additionally, the courts will protect the identity of victims.

Domestic Abuse

Pakistan ranks as the sixth most dangerous country for women in regards to domestic violence. Patriarchal and cultural norms greatly impact women’s rights in Pakistan.

Honor killings and violence within the home are prevalent. Recently, social media model and activist Qandeel Baloch’s brother strangled her to death. According to her brother, she had ruined the family’s image and honor. Fortunately, Pakistan has made progress to prevent violence within the household. For instance, the court denied Baloch’s parents’ wishes and convicted Baloch’s brother of murder. Additionally, more than 1,000 domestic violence cases appeared in court in June 2019.

Furthermore, Ms. Quandeel wrote, “I wonder how long it will take us to recognize that we shouldn’t let ourselves off the hook, that our social structure is rotten and works against people like #Qandeel who wish to make something of themselves on their own terms.” The death of Qandeel Baloch generated a movement for gender equality in Pakistan.

The Good News

The good news is that Pakistani women are fighting back. Since 2018, women have demanded economic and environmental justice, reproductive rights and better access to public spaces. On International Women’s Day, thousands took to the streets to demonstrate their commitment to bettering women’s rights in Pakistan. However, conservative groups criticized the movement and labeled it as a “western campaign.”

One of the main slogans of the march was “mera jism, meri marzi” (my body, my choice). Many said it was a promiscuous demand that did not empower women. Yet, women continue to defend their objectives, raise awareness against sexual harassment and gender-based violence and promote bodily autonomy.

Additionally, women began riding bikes in order to accentuate their presence in public spaces. Girls at Dhabas organized a bike ride to promote certification in all public events and fight against restrictions that prohibit women. One cyclist said, “We have an advantage with this lockdown and corona and all. The cycling has become really common among the girls in Islamabad.”

Various organizations are spreading awareness of domestic violence. Additionally, the government continues to implement new laws to protect women. Although women’s rights in Pakistan are lacking in many ways, the government and organizations continue to strive for gender equality.

– Marielle Marlys
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Human Rights in Pakistan
Pakistan, cushioned between India and Afghanistan, is home to more than 212 million people and is the sixth most populous country in the world. Each one of these people living in Pakistan should be given basic human rights no matter their ethnic origin, color, gender, religion or any other reason.

Even if human rights should be granted to everyone, not everyone is given the same rights as the other in some countries around the world. There is much to know how each human is treated or could be treated in the country of Pakistan. Here are 10 facts on human rights in Pakistan.

10 Facts On Human Rights in Pakistan

  1. Attacks on civil society. A civil society is a community of citizens linked by common interests, and in Pakistan some aspects of civil society are under attack. For instance, an attack on a school killing 140 people, mostly children, made those among the positive civil society in Pakistan protest against the government for supporting the “good” Taliban. When these protests arose, so did the safety concerns of Pakistan’s civil society. These people were attacked with laws and organizations put against them.
  2. Freedom of religion. In 2017, there were at least 19 people on death row under blasphemy charges, many of whom were members of religious minorities in Pakistan. This situation, combined with many others, has put Pakistan at a severe level of ‘violations of religious freedom’ — religious minorities and atheists are at a higher risk than ever before.
  3. Children’s rights. Child marriage is a major concern in Pakistan, with 21 percent of girls under the age of 18 already married. Along with child marriages, lack of education also heavily impacts children in Pakistan. There have been many attacks on the school, and children are frequently used in suicide bombings. Unfortunately, roughly five million children are not able to attend school in Pakistan.
  4. Women’s rights. Many women in Pakistan face rape, acid attacks, domestic violence and “honor” killings. It is estimated that there are about 1,000 “honor” killings a year on Pakistani women. If a woman is accused of adultery, fornication or an immoral behavior that violates societal and religious norms, she is then subjected to an “honor” killing.
  5. Refugees. Pakistan is host to the largest refugee population in the world. According to UNHCR, there are more than 1.45 million refugees in Pakistan, many of whom are from Afghanistan. In many areas, the Pakistani police have extorted money from registered and undocumented refugees from Afghanistan. Between January to August in 2017, up to 82,019 Afghan refugees returned or were deported back to Afghanistan.
  6. Terrorism. Many security forces in Pakistan are linked to terrorist intentions. Many times when suspects were to be charged, there were serious violations regarding torture and secret detention centers. Many of those who are detained were activists and human rights defenders.
  7. Forced Disappearances. Many minority groups are under attack in Pakistan, and forced disappearances can occur. In 2017, the government received 868 new cases of forced disappearances, a figure which is more than the previous two years. The government was able to locate 555 of those who had disappeared, but there are still 313 people missing.
  8. Freedom of expression. Many journalists, bloggers and social media users have been attacked in relation with Pakistan. For instance, there were five bloggers whose comments online led to forced disappearances. Four of the five bloggers were later released, but two of them said that they were tortured while in custody. The fifth blogger has still not been unfound.
  9. Human rights defenders. Whether lawyers, bloggers, journalists or activists, voices of truth are often subjected to harassment, threats and forms of violence. In 2016, the Pakistani government argued that human rights defenders did not warrant special legal status and the protection of human rights defenders was a conspiracy by western countries to interfere in domestic affairs in developing countries.
  10. A glimpse at progress. It may seem that human rights in Pakistan is lacking, but there have been some instances of progress over the years. In Punjab, Pakistani authorities are now accepting marriage licenses in the Sikh community, giving union protections under the law. Another progression in human rights for Pakistan is restoring section 7 of the Christian Divorce Act. In this section, Christians who wish to divorce can do so civilly without the threat of false accusations of adultery. Despite the many downfalls on human rights for women, there was an increase of 3.8 million women able to vote in the most recent election compared to 2013.

Postive Push

While there may be progress budding in regard to human rights in Pakistan, the road to completely improved human rights will be long and difficult. If those pushing for their rights are heard and supported, the return of basic human rights and safety can return to Pakistan.

– Victoria Fowler
Photo: Flickr