SAHAR TARIQ

Lahore - Women have a history of being looked upon as slaves. Though Islam elevated the status of women as daughter, mother, sister and wife; our society is still reluctant to respect them in real manner. We are persistent to confine the women to houses, depriving them of their rights to get education, marry to someone of their own choice. Islam defines equal rights for men and women, which allows women to be a vital part of the society. Looking back in the past, we witness women from the household and companionship of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) doing great tasks helping build the Islamic society. They maintained their households, along with participating in wars against infidels, serving water and tending to injured. Preachers, they were, among their own gender. Khadija bint Khuwaylid (RA) was a wealthy and well-respected businesswoman before her marriage to the holy Prophet. Razia Sultana, the famous Mughal empress, is also widely respected in our society.

French leader Napoleon Bonaparte said, “Give me good mothers and I shall give you a great nation!". Russia and Japan other trained thousand of women as soldiers to serve in the World Wars. But our society doesn’t allow women to be better at any level. Here in Pakistan, we are still arguing over the belief whether women should take part in social and cultural activities or not. Women, in our country, are still deprived of their financial, economic, social and political rights. The rights of women in Pakistan are not protected at all. She is a victim of violence at home; eve teasing on streets; and sexual harassment at work field. She is undoubtedly dealt with injustice and unfairness in our society.

In rural areas of Pakistan, women are not being provided with basic education. Illiteracy is prevailing, which is leading towards more violence and devastation. Malala Yousaf Zai, the girl from Swat, was shot in the head for trying to pursue education. Dozens of rape, torture and acid throwing incidents are being reported on daily basis from these areas. Honour killings and forced marriages are some of the unacceptable violence against the women in our society, which result in lifelong agony and sufferings. Over the years, we have allowed our values to be subverted by the Middle Eastern culture, which is brought over from Pakistanis working in the region. While driving through Skardu last year, I saw several signs stating “Dear sisters, Hijab is our culture. Be considerate so that you are respected”. In my opinion, Hijab (veiling face) has never been a part of our culture, rather than a choice in our religion and should be respected.

Former dictator Ziaul Haq is known for his conservative leanings. His era is regarded as retrogressive for women rights. Hudood Laws, passed during his period, are yet the causes of concern for women right activists in the country. However, this era also saw some significant steps towards realization of women rights. A New Women’s Division was established in 1979 at the Cabinet secretariat level. Most importantly his rule saw an unprecedented inclusion of females in work force. In recent years, our media has been extremely vocal and highlighted such violence. But our government should pay special attention to eliminate such injustice with women and safeguard the women rights in Pakistan. In the constitution of Pakistan 1973, the article 25(1) states, “All citizens are equal and are entitled to equal protection of law’’.

During former premiere Benazir Bhutto’s election campaigns in 1988, she voiced concerns over discrimination against women. She announced different plans to set up women’s police stations, courts and women's development banks. She also promised to repeal controversial Hudood laws that curtailed the rights of women. However, during her two incomplete terms in office (1988-90 and 1993-96), she could not propose any legislation to improve social status of Pakistan women. She was unable to repeal a single one of ‘Islamic laws’ which were protected both from ordinary legislative modification and from judicial review by virtue of the eighth constitutional amendment.

Status of women in any society is determined by the rights enjoyed by them. The developed societies give equal rights to women so that they can play their role in the progress and development. However, the backward societies deprive women even of their basic human rights. In order to protect the rights of women in professional field, the Labour Laws And Factories Act 1934 included special discussions for the securing women from violence. The need of the hour is to root out these causes which violate women rights so that they can play their role in progress and development of the country. Companies and institutions should design policies and implement them strictly to protect the rights of women. Women in our country badly need anti-harassment policy and equal employment opportunities, which are their genuine rights.