Question of Gender Equality in Pakistan

Tashan Fatima

“I think democratic people have a natural taste for freedom. But for equality, they have a fervent, insatiable, eternal and invincible passion – Alexis de Tocqueville.”

In Pakistan, discernment against woman starts since her birth. In most families, a boy is considered more important compared to a girl. While girls face boundaries at all stages of their lives, they are, mostly, not allowed to take independent decisions in their lives. Too much emphasis is put on the way women dress and not on the way men stare at them for their appearance. Women are asked to cover up; many women are not allowed to leave their houses without permission. Women exist among countless restrictions whereas men are born with a license to do whatever they want within their social economic class. This inequality gets cavernous as one dissevers the population on the basis of gender.

The fight for equality and against discernment has been long and painstaking. A just society is what that provide all people with the basic tools of education, healthcare, labor protection and social security. Now, what exactly is equality? And equality of what? And among or between whom? Equality suggests a certain identity between subjects in comparison with each other. Equality is a desire of democratic centuries. This equality is of equality of welfare, of basic merchandises, of resources, of opportunities, or of human aptitudes etc.

In masculine societies like Pakistan, where Gender Equality is a myth and where men are the primary authority figures and women are mostly seen as subordinates, women lack social value and status because of annulment of their roles as producers and providers in all social roles. Patriarchal values entrenched in local traditions, religion and culture encode the social value of gender.

The Constitution of Pakistan identifies parity between men and women Art. 25(2) states “There shall be no discrimination on the basis of sex.”

Local religious interpretations deeply impact gender roles in specific. Conventionally, male members are given superior education and are furnished with expertise to compete for capitals in the public arena, while female members are taught domestic skills to be good mothers and wives. Lack of skills, limited opportunities in the job market, and social, religious and cultural restrictions limit women’s chances to strive for resources in the public ground in Pakistan.

According to the World Economic Forum’s (WEF’s) Global Gender Gap Report, 2016, the world is facing an acute exploitation of talent by not acting faster to tackle gender inequality, which could put economic growth at risk and deprive economies of the opportunity to develop. Pakistan scores at 143rd rank in Economic Participation and Opportunity, while is placed at 135th in education.

The poor ranking has primarily been determined by high maternal mortality ratios, poor secondary level educational execution by females and poor labor force participation rate. National literacy rate in Pakistan is mere 58 per cent — the ratio surges to 70 per cent for male workers while stoops to 47 per cent for women workers. Pakistan’s poor ranking presents a bleak depiction of the state of nearly no-progress made on female empowerment and gender equality.

Recent IMF studies indicate that fecundity, educational attainment, marital status, household income, household size, daughter legacy rights, being the head of household, have impact on women labor force participation and are allied with removing/provoking the gaps. In a tweet by Gates Foundation quoting UN statistics states that women are highly economically dependent on their male counterparts in developing regions.

Now the question is: Could empowering women reduce inequality?

In developing countries, such as Pakistan, female labor force participation rates remain low due to unequal opportunities and lack of enabling environments for women to work in. Divergence in male and female labor force participation rates results in inequality of earnings between the two sexes and thus, feeds into income inequality. Empowering women, up to the same extent as that of men, can reduce the discrimination factors.

Government should bring together laws that disallow gender perception and offer tonics for such behavior in service as well as in educational and financial associations. Although there are cyphers that male behavior is changing and gender discrimination is decreasing in Pakistan, yet a great pact more needs to be done. Solid measures need to be taken so that females feel free to take decisions about their lives. Lacking these seminal steps, achieving gender equality would remain a distant dream for developing countries including Pakistan.

In order to change the mindset of society, the process has to initiate at home. It starts with the mother; in every home, mothers need to educate their sons. Teach your sons what to do instead of forcing girls to learn what not to do.

Feature image courtesy:

Tashan Fatima


A political and women rights activist, Tashan tirelessly campaigns to increase public spaces for young women, and has long worked on minority women issues. A change-maker, she is furious at honor killings and harassment of women in the South Asian societies.

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