Women representation following Senate elections shows Pakistan is progressing as a liberal Islamic state
Pakistan’s Senate Elections result is really remarkable in the context that many seats have been won by female contestants.Moreover, the second ever woman from Pakistan’s marginalized Hindu minority has been elected to the Senate last weekend.There are many signs that male behavior is changing and gender discrimination is decreasing in Pakistan.
As for Islam, gender equality is part of its jurisprudence and fundamental teachings. Then why Pakistani women living in an Islamic country are still struggling for their rights even after years of independence?
International Women’s Day, on March 8 every year, is an opportunity to empower women in all settings, rural and urban. It is a worldwide event that celebrates women’s achievements – from the political to the social – calling for gender equality. The day brings together global governments, women’s organizations, businesses and charities together under the banner of International Women’s Day.
The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day was ‘Press for Progress’ – a strong call to motivate and gather friends and whole communities to think, act and be gender inclusive. The tradition began with the first National Women’s Day in 1909 and its roots are in campaigning for better pay and voting rights. In fact,the ancient world excluded women that they had no rights to participate in the decision making. The Greek philosopher, Aristotle quotes: “As regards the sexes, the male is by nature superior and the female inferior, the male ruler and the female subject.”– The Politics.
But Islam gave women their basic rights centuries before the West did.Islam was actually the first religion to give women rights of inheritance. In fact, the women’s liberation movement was not begun by women but was revealed by God to Prophet Muhammad. When Islam was introduced in the sixth century, women’s status improved substantially. “Women in 7th century Arabia had rights not extended to most women in the West till recent centuries over 1,000 years later,” writes Huffington Post’s Jim Garrison.
Understanding that the Qur’an gives women equal rights, it has given women the right to choose the head of the state participate in the legislative work and vote in state matters at equality. Islam regards woman a complete legal personality. Many verses of the Qur’an and prophetic traditions enjoin gender equality which categorically proves that gender inequality is not faith-based. “And according to usage, women too have rights over men similar to the rights of men over women.” (al-Qur’an, 2:228) It is a national obligation to provide for the participation of women at every level to make them valuable and productive members of society.
Pakistani women today are more likely to participate in the labor force and decision-making, and access health and education services. With about a fifth of parliamentary seats held by women, Pakistan has a strong representation in terms of women’s political representation in South Asia.There have been important advances in gender equality in Pakistan in recent years.
Hindus have previously been elected to Parliament, both in the lower and upper houses. Two male Hindus from the Dalit caste have served in the Senate.But Ms. Kumari is the first Hindu Dalit woman to be elected.Pakistan People’s Party has presented it as an example of the party’s liberal credentials and the importance it gives to religious minorities.Ms. Kumari, a native of the Tharparkar district in Sindh Province, a traditional Pakistan People’s Party stronghold, comes from a family of peasants, and as a Dalit is a member of the so-called untouchables caste.
The word ‘dalit’ literally means ‘oppressed people’; it has been in use since the 19th century to describe communities that fall outside of the four-caste Hindu hierarchy. These ‘outcastes’ or ‘untouchables’ have been subject to horrendous discrimination, in all spheres of life, for at least the past 2,000 years.
Islam does not recognize any castes, but, when it came to Persia and India, the existing divisions in these regions were adopted among the local Muslim societies. It developed as a result of influence of the indigenous Hindu culture whose remnants still exist in some rural areas of Pakistan and decreasing rapidly with awareness and understanding of Islam.
Pakistan Muslim League (N) came out as the largest party, followed by the Pakistan People’s Party and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf.The results of these elections were steeped in controversy due to rampant allegations of horse trading and vote-buying;overall large number of seats won by women in senate is remarkable including a minority seat from Sindh, again by a female Krishna Kohli the first Dalit.
On the other hand, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf strongly believes in representation of women at all decision making levels. These are indicators that reflect Pakistan is rapidly progressing towards liberal Islamic state. No doubt, a society with gender inequality faces deprivation, economic inequality and other social evils.