The Woman Of The Capital

Woman.jpgRecently, I posted one of my first hand witness account of women’s harrassment by men in public. I am pleased to see that now on a government level proper measures are bening taken. But the question remains: is that enough? What do we as a society need to do more? Read on for more news and views from an Islooites perspective.

Sexual harassment does not just mean an act of physical offence. It starts from any gesture, stares or remarks that make women feel insecure and uncomfortable – while rape, molestation, incest etcetera remain the most severe forms of sexual harassment. There is ample of it in our society, ranging from corn fields to multinationals, and Islamabad is no exception here. The root of the matter is more profund and lies else where. The core lies at the mindset that is developed through cultural, legilative and social perspectives. This mindset is not changed by any number of college degrees, or education.

The gender discriminatory practices in Pakistani society also shape the distribution of poverty in the country. Traditional gender roles in Pakistan define the woman’s place as in the home and not in the workplace, and define the man as the breadwinner. Consequently, the society invests far less in women than men. Women in Pakistan suffer from poverty of opportunities throughout their lives. Female literacy in Pakistan is 29% compared to Male literacy at 55%. In legislative bodies, women constituted less than 3% of the legislature elected on general seats before 2002.

The 1973 Constitution allowed reserved seats for women in both houses of parliament for a period of 20 years, thus ensuring that women would be represented in parliament regardless of whether or not they are elected on general seats. This provision lapsed in 1993, so parliaments elected subsequently did not have reserved seats for women. Reserved seats for women have been restored after the election of 2002. Female labor rates in Pakistan are exceptionally low.

All this, coupled with the rise of honor killings against women, a legal system that is regarded as misogynistic, and the intransigent denial of these problems by the Pakistan government, as well as their institutionalized harassment of women’s rights groups operating in the country, contribute to the deteriorating situation with women and the rise in their poverty. Among the most common forms of harassment in Pakistan are the discomforting gazes that follow a woman wherever she goes, as soon as she sets foot outside her home.

However, I am glad that finally the boat is being rocked and proper attention is being paid to this area. Despite the consistent ramble of the mullahs regarding the conspiracy of “jews”, and the “west” that has blinded our government to spread obsecenity in our “Islamic” society, people are making a difference, even in a modern city such as Islamabad.

The law to prevent harassment of women at workplaces has been prepared in line with the Ministry for Women’s development recommendations. A formal approval was made yesterday by Sumaira Malik, Minister for Women Development. They are trying to implement a 10 percent women’s employment quota, even in the private sector. The National Commission for Human Development and other civil society organisations are helping the ministry. But the question remains, is that all enough?

1 Comment so far

  1. JayJay (unregistered) on January 21st, 2007 @ 11:28 am

    True measure of a nation’s civilization is how it treats its women. We surely rank very highly.

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