Pakistan is ranked as the world’s third most dangerous place for females, according to Thompson Reuters Foundation. The ranking has been endorsed by UN Women. The ranking was formulated based on the rate of violence against women. These types of violence include domestic violence, rape, acid attacks, sexual assaults, kidnappings and honor killings. All of this is happening despite constitutional provisions guaranteeing women an equal status in society.
Plenty of laws, regulations and legislations exist to protect women in our country. This is highlighted by Article 25 of the Constitution which outlaws discrimination on the basis of gender. Likewise, Punjab’s Provincial Assembly successfully passed the Punjab Protection of Women against Violence Act (2016), which has criminalized every form of violence against women. That is not the issue which warrants our effort and commitment. In fact, Mr. Jamshed Kazi, the Country Representative at UN Women Pakistan, stated that, ‘legislation alone will not address the mental state and issues, we have to struggle within Pakistan’ to end violence against women and girls.
Awareness, change and implementation is needed. A society-wide effort is required.Everyone, from families to educational establishments including religious institutions, has to chip in to improve the situation for women in Pakistan. The current state of women requires structural change; piece-meal change will mean that significant number of women will have to endure the current situation for a long time to come.
Families, specifically father-figures ought to set an example to their sons on how to conduct themselves. Parents should be aware that everything that happens in front of their children’s eyes has a profound impact on them. Emile Durkheim, the late prominent French sociologist wrote that, “Nothing can happen in the child’s presence which does not leave some trace on them”. In other words, language and behavior of elders have a profound impact on the youth. It is with the effort of parents that a better model of gender relations can be set for future generations. After all, change usually starts from the home environment.
Change in family environments has to be fostered in conjuncture with academic research.
Education establishments like universities and other research institutions should commit more funding and resources in researching gender based violence. NGOs, governmental institutions and newspapers repeatedly claim that the true extent of violence perpetrated against women is not fully known. However, social scientists can help fill this gap. Social scientists, in particular sociologists, have the skills and research methods to investigate issues in-depth and look behind the official picture to unveil an accurate representation of gender based violence. To fill this gap, additional funds have to be allocated to these research projects. A long-term solution cannot be implemented without knowing the ins and outs of the problem we want to address.
Religious institutions, such as mosques and madrassas, have to inform their congregation of the high status Islam accords women in society. Mosques and madrassas exercise a profound impact and power on social values both explicitly and implicitly. Islam was revealed 1400 years ago when the status of women was below that of the earth in vast sways of the world. However, Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) and his daughter Fatima binte Mohammad (R.A) raised the status of women beyond anyone’s expectations in their era. Due to their teachings women enjoy a high status in Islam, a status unmatched by other faiths. Teachings like these should be transmitted through Friday sermons all over the country. The betterment of gender relations also relies on the implementation of the character of the Prophet (PBUH) in our everyday life. The current state of women in Pakistan is incompatible with Islamic teachings –an observation to which the scholars and students of the Islamic sciences would attest to.
Families, educational establishments and religious institutions have to collaborate with each other. Reduction in violence against women cannot come about through the efforts of only one institution – formal alliances have to be fostered, especially between academic institutions and religious organizations. Their scope of power is invaluable. Unity of purpose can unite these organizations, a purpose of delivering the betterment of women’s status in our cities and villages.
Women of Pakistan deserve a better society. Every girl of Pakistan deserves education. Females all over the country should feel a sense of guarantee that they won’t be discriminated against based on their gender.
These are human rights. These are the values our society should commit to. Not because we want to establish a matriarchal society, but because we want the rights to be enacted which are enshrined in the Constitution and allocated to them according to Islam.