Writer 17 April 17, 2012 The Progress of Women in Pakistan INTRODUCTION Women all across the world have been subjected to oppression and submission at some point in their history. The current status that women enjoy in most of the countries today is not a result of some sudden revelation on part of the world in general…
Muslim reformers like Sir Syed Ahmed tried their best to educate the Muslim women of the subcontinent (Virdee). There were a lot of hurdles for women, imposed by the society, and attainment of education in the sub-continent was not an easy task for women of that time. Many women participated in public rallies during the Pakistan movement and women leaders took active part in the movement along with the wives of the Muslim leaders. After independence, Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah became a symbol of inspiration for the Pakistani women. She was the sister of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, and was very politically as well as socially active. The provision of reserved seats for women existed all through the constitutional history of Pakistan. They had the right of suffrage from independence (D. S. Ahmed 32-42). But the quota was, at the beginning, almost negligible. The progress of women in Pakistan suffered a great set back in the 1980’s, during the dictatorship of Zia-ul-Haq. He formulated and imposed oppressive laws that ran counter to the true spirit of Islam as he introduced his own radical extremist approach to Islam. On the other hand, this dark period for the women of the country was followed by the election of the first woman to be the prime minister of an Islamic state; Benazir Bhutto which was a big achievement for a woman belonging to a predominantly patriarchal society. Another major hurdle in the way of the progress of Pakistani women has been, and still is to this day, the strong feudal system. Women are still seen as objects of use, or rather misuse in feudally administered areas. Statistics show that violence against women is the greatest in these areas. This first decade of the 21st century saw the condition of women in Pakistan improve significantly, with inductions of ladies being carried out in all three armed forces in operational capacity. The proportion of women in the parliament has seen sizeable increase compared to the yesteryears. Women have access to equal education and are being inducted in all fields on equal pays. But the patriarchal mindset has not subsided, and women face discrimination and gender based prejudice and harassment in the workplaces. EFFECTS OF THE LEGAL SYSTEM The constitution of Pakistan is mostly based on the principles of Islam. In its true essence, Islam is a very moderate religion that gave women the right to suffrage and inheritance when the west was still in the dark ages. The much debated ‘Hadood Ordinance’ is a section of the law that deals largely with the punishments regarding limitations imposed on men and women individually and together. Some of the clauses are a distortion of the true limitations present in the Holy book of the Muslims; the Quran. The requirement of four witnesses to prove a woman’s claim that she had been sexually molested raised a storm of protest and criticism by the more sane minded people of the civil society (Khan 34). The law said that a woman could be held guilty of adultery herself if she fails to produce 4 male witnesses. This law was amended under the women protection bill of 2006 under the orders of Pervez Musharraf (Prisoners".). The women protection bill came under a lot of scrutiny from the radical religious factions who charged Musharraf with meddling with ...
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