Drive Against Domestic Violence and Gender Discrimination
“No nation can rise to the heights of glory until your women are side by side with you.”
Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah
Contrary to the developed countries, where women are hand in glove with men in every walk of life irrespective of any so-called gender bias, the plight of the womenfolk in the developing and the underdeveloped countries is desperate. The conditions of women in these countries are no better than those of the women of the Stone and the Dark Ages. Regrettably, our own country, Pakistan, is also no exception to it as women, which constitute over 50 percent of the total population of the country, are living a life of miseries and wretchedness and they are underprivileged and deprived of their fundamental rights.
To begin with, domestic violence, in innumerable forms and manifestations, is not a new phenomenon as far as Pakistan, especially its rural areas, are concerned. To put it in figures, as per the data provided by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), 835 cases of domestic violence were registered, 67 women were murdered for bearing a girl, and 597 cases of assault on women were reported, in 2014.
The heinous offences perpetrated against women range from honour killings, acid throwing, sexual assault, molestation, rape and gang rapes to forced prostitution, forced marriages, unfair and unjust inheritance of property, and to womenfolk, especially in hinterlands to be left to shoulder the burden of poverty.
Pakistani women, especially those belonging to rural areas, suffer to the uttermost extent owing to the patriarchal structure of the society. They are stereotyped as mere beasts of burden or household machines. Besides rearing families, rural women are supposed to sow, reap and collect crops, plant herbs and shepherd animals. Needless to say, they constitute a major agricultural labour force, contributing to about 50 percent of food of the country. Women, in urban areas, also suffer the same kind of gender bias in socioeconomic spheres of life even they are harassed at the workplaces. As per a survey, women are classified as one of the world’s poorest creatures owning to unpaid and unwarranted labour falling upon their shoulders.
Under such grim circumstances, a woman being allowed proper health and medical assistance, entitlement to education, and an easy access to information and participation in civic functions and administration of the society, of which she is a constituent unit, remains a pipedream.
A society likes ours in which the disparity between men and women on the basis of sex and due to old stereotypes is so deeply rooted that it warrants lots of individual and concerted efforts at all levels and on all fronts. In this direction, the only effective tool to enable a woman to lead at least a healthy and humane life is “Women Empowerment”.
It goes without saying that alleviating the plight of women and doing away with gender discrimination are possible only if women are empowered enough to have their share in resources and to claim their equal right in socioeconomic and political spheres.
As a virtual architect of society, a woman must be endowed with education, both social and scientific and technical, for the realization of her individuality and fulfilment of personal ambitions.
In the course of empowering women, the issue of a woman’s “reproductive health” needs to be addressed. She must be allowed to share with her husband the equal decision-making power to control childbirths, and ascertain the number, timing and spacing of pregnancies. For this reason, she may be provided an opportunity to participate in educative and value-oriented seminars etc., where she may get awareness about contraceptives, pregnancy, and health-related complications.
The dream of gender equality can be realized only if women are brought in the national political mainstream, with adequate as well as effectual representation, in all organs of the government. It will be only with the strong say of women in legislation that stringent legislation against domestic violence can be made.
All skills, talents, expertise and energies of women need to be channelled in the right direction. In the realm of women empowerment, the UN Women and the United Nations Global Compact, through a partnership, have developed the following principles:
- Establish high-level corporate leadership for gender equality
- Treat all women and men fairly at work — respect and support human rights and non-discrimination
- Ensure the health, safety and well-being of all women and men workers
- Promote education, training and professional development for women
- Implement enterprise development, supply chain and marketing practices that empower women
- Promote equality through community initiatives and advocacy
- Measure and publicly report on progress to achieve gender equality
From Islamic viewpoint as well, women are endowed with the maximum liberty, to the point of fully partaking in the civic, administrative and political spheres by observing certain conditions. For making this a reality in our society, we must disseminate knowledge on true ideas of Islamic gender equality among masses.
The celebrated Greek genius — and probably the first feminist — Plato, was quick to grasp the utmost importance of bringing both men and women on an equal footing, entitling the women the same rights and duties as were accorded to men, to develop their individual faculties on the one hand, and to enable them to render their services for state on the other. He not only included women in his scheme of education, but also encouraged their fully fledged participation in civil and military services.
Thus, his cherished ideal of a just, progressive, tolerant and happy society can be materialized only by treating our women as human beings. It is high time the state took all steps to ensure gender parity and women empowerment.