WOMEN are not created weak but more generous than men. They are created more beautiful and less fierce, as beauty hates to hurt and harm others. That is why they seem weak to people, but in reality, they are not. Angles are the strongest of created beings, and women are closer to the angelic nature than men, as they are readier than men to carry angelic light”. (Prophet Mohammed).
In Islam, men and women are morally considered equal in Allahs sight and are expected to fulfill the same duties of worship, prayer, faith, alms giving, fasting and pilgrimage to Makkah. Islam generally improved the status of women compared to earlier Arab cultures, prohibiting female infanticide and recognizing women’s full person-hood. Islamic law emphasizes the contractual nature of marriage, requiring that a dowry should be paid to the woman rather than to her family, and guaranteeing women’s rights of inheritance and to her own manage property. Women were also granted the right to live in the matrimonial home and receive financial maintenance during marriage and a waiting period following death and divorce.
Women’s rights in Pakistan is a big question often raised in the West. It is believed that women have no rights or privileges in the male-dominated society of Pakistan. Pakistan is an Islamic state, where people not only take pride in strictly adhering to the Islamic values but also are ready to sacrifice their loved belongings for the glory and sanctity of Islam. Islam has accorded a highly venerated social position to women. Islam acknowledges the rights and privileges of the women in society. Likewise, Islam does not impose any restrictions that may hamper the social growth and development of the woman folk. A woman is equally important member of society. The woman plays a vital role in building the society on healthier and stronger foundations.
Although, the ‘‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948’’ promotes equal rights of all people including men and women. The preamble of UDHR states “the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human being and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom” The equal rights for men and women were promoted 62 years ago, but the movements for women’s rights have received more attention recently after the adoption of The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in 1979. The human rights movements have shifted towards embracing women’s issues 50 years after the UDHR. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) advocate for women and girls (children’s) rights and promote gender equality. However, still many developing countries (including Pakistan) seem struggling to achieve the targets of MDGs. Many feminists in Pakistan challenge the human rights law for failing to recognize oppressive practices against women as human rights violation.
Pakistan is one of the most dangerous countries for a woman. The State does little to protect it vulnerable despite constitutional guarantee and laws guaranteeing free will to the women of Pakistan. They are denied their fundamental rights. Women in Pakistan have been constantly complaining of having being isolated from the mainstream of society. Women feel disillusioned on being maltreated by the male-oriented set-up in Pakistan. However, the Pakistani society usually adopts a hostile attitude towards the women. Women face substantial, systemic challenges in Pakistan. And most fundamental is the question of violence. The violence against women is a very alarming situation in the country because it is getting to a very threatening situation and the violence is getting brutal day by day. The honour and dignity of female is endangered and no women are safe.
One of the key problems is that there is a very fragmented legal framework for violence against women. Moreover, there are no proper mechanisms on the ground for proper enforcement. Despite several legislative developments to strengthen the women protection system, no significant decline was seen in the number of cases of violence against women. Many laws were introduced but never forced in the country. In 1996, Pakistan internationally ratified Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). The law requires the government to take strict measures against any abuse that hinders women rights for freedom, equality and justice. The law is good in its part for binding the country in protecting rights of the women. Government presented another bill on women rights Prevention of anti-Women Practices Bill 2006 (Criminal Law Amendment) in December 2006 and 2016. The bill contains the proposal of nine-member Ulema panel to relieve women from some malpractices. Under Section 310A, the bill prohibits handover of women for settling a dispute between groups or either under marriage.
Given these facts, women in Pakistan do not possess their due rights guaranteed by the Constitution. The State is unable to protect the women from inhuman social customs prevalent in our society. The general population is mum over wicked practices being carried out on women; there is a great need of their voice against anti-women practices rather than forming laws after laws. There is need to wake people of Pakistan for the protection of women rights.
— The writer is a working lawyer, based in Islamabad.