2018 might prove to be the year women finally receive their rights in the misogynist and patriarchal society of Pakistan after all the organized protests which were met with heavy criticism by the masses, as seen on social media. Among these critics were upstanding members of our society who have taken it upon themselves to prove that feminism in Pakistan is simply the west’s propaganda to take down the country through the moral and ethical corruption of women. Others have dismissed the feminist movement as unnecessary, and not at all important according to religious values.
Perhaps, what these men – and some confused women – don’t understand is that women in this country have been begging for basic human rights; rights that have been granted to men on a silver platter since birth, and which have been taken for granted. Secular feminism is highly critiqued in a county where murder, rape, and sexual harassment cases are brought to light at an alarming rate every day, yet somehow the general public has decided to either lash out at these activists or look the other way when such injustices occur right under their noses. It may be simpler for this society to forget women’s rights for a second or two, and consider them as human.
According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, all humans are born free and equal in dignity and rights. In case our people have been unable to look past their honor and dignity, women – and for that matter, Trans people – are also human; freedom is not limited to sex. Progress cannot be achieved if equal rights are not distributed to the general public, as well as equal opportunities.
Furthermore, previous feminist movements in Pakistan can be examined to see why women have decided that they no longer want to be oppressed and would like to enjoy equal social, economic and political rights as men. General Zia’s extremist approach to women’s rights caused uproar due to the unfair and intolerable practices of the Zina and Hudood Ordinance. The phrase, “ye chaar-diwariyan ye chadar gali sadi lash ko Mubarak” from a famous poem written by Fahmida Riaz against the forced veiling of working women, which caused many deaths has regained popularity once again, especially because the moral police will stop at nothing to shame women because of their clothing, and are under the impression that clothes define character.
On the other hand, the same moral police justify an entire village raping a woman for a crime she did not commit. They can easily justify a husband cutting off his wife’s leg on suspicion of an extra-marital affair, women being murdered if the food wasn’t cooked or heated to certain standards. They can justify the intoxication and killing of a woman by her husband and in-laws because she wanted to exercise her right to divorce. Interestingly enough, our political leaders are too wrapped in disgracing each other, and the nation on an international platform to think about legal reforms protecting women from the terrible fate that men have forced upon them. Maybe, 2018 will finally be the year women from all areas of Pakistan will witness their rights being executed and justice delivered.