Women’s Day 2021 (w.r.t. Pakistan)

The women’s struggle for gaining political, economic, and cultural equality is a centuries-old phenomenon. Plato advocated women’s capacities to govern and defend ancient Greece. The women of ancient Rome protested against the Oppian which had restricted their access to gold and other valuables.

Islam came with a revolutionary message. It called for an end to female infanticide and claimed gender equality in all walks of life. The Prophet’s first wife, Khadija, was an independent businesswoman and proposed to him for marriage at the age of forty. His wife, Ayesha was a famous scholar and teacher. A Muslim female hero Umme Ammarah fought for the life of the prophet in the battle of Uhud.

Islam entitled girls to at least half as much as their male siblings would get as their parents’ inheritance. Parents could always give them more if they wanted.

Men used to exchange women innumerable times as objects of sexual gratification. Islam ordained Nikah as a legal contract and men were not allowed more than four wives in extraordinary circumstances. It was not a recommendation though. Five of the modern Muslim states; named Turkey, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Tunis have banned a man from marrying again in presence of the first wife. In Morrocco, one has to get permission from the court to have a second wife.

Islam gave women the right to choose a partner, the right to divorce, the right to keep custody of children in case of a divorce, the right to continue education, the right to work, the right to wear or not wear a head covering, the right to be the one and only wife, and so on. According to Laleh Bakhtiar, an Iranian American scholar, the best Quranic verse to describe women’s rights under Islam is: “There is no compulsion in religion.”

Around 15,000 women gathered to protest against discriminatory pay rates, longer hours of work, and lack or absence of voting rights in New York in 1908. In 1918, the British parliament granted women the right to vote for the first time. Dutch women won voting rights in 1919, and American women on August 26, 1920.

Feminism has slowly changed into a social movement that valued the feminist values of empathy, cooperation, justice, and equity for not only all genders but all members of society.

In Western societies, it has achieved goals regarding women’s access to education and career opportunities; more equitable pay rates; the right to initiate divorce proceedings; the right to make decisions regarding pregnancy (including access to contraceptives and abortion); the right to the custody of children in case of divorce, and the right to claim a part of the property of the spouse in case of divorce. Strict laws implemented to stop the physical and sexual violence against women and children.

The Fourth Wave of feminism began in 2012. It focuses on stopping sexual harassment, body shaming, and rape culture all over the world. It asserts the right of consent among other issues.

In countries like Pakistan, toxic masculinity has played actively against feminist values. The people of subdued integrity and poor self-esteem, usually abuse religion to enforce their patriarchal interpretations as universal values. One such example is a controversial scriptwriter, Khalil Ur Rahman Qamar.

The right to respect pertains to every human being. In our society, women have to be in a relationship with a male member to claim respect and dignity. The criteria are that she is a mother, a sister, a daughter, or a wife. And if she is not ready to acknowledge, or have naturally lost those relations, she deserves disgrace, degradation, and humiliation at the hands of other members of society.

The right to choose what they like also gives them a right to refuse what they don’t like. This is the concept of consent. Women’s consent to marriage and have children is indispensable.

People don’t recommend girls pursue their goals or related needs. The environment at national institutions is not conducive for them to work or move freely. Even hospitals, courts, and police stations have failed to protect female or transgender complainants. They would rather be humiliated, harassed, and violated in many cases.

This year’s charter of Women’s March organizers in Pakistan has asked for an increase in the health budget for women and the transgender community’s general, reproductive, mental, and rehabilitative health. The charter demanded that the provincial governments publicly announce the budget before March, the 8th.

The right to live without violence and trauma is essential to every human being including women, transgenders, and children. The majority of our male members take up violent and aggressive behavior. This counts for a range of excesses like domestic abuse, workplace bullying, sexual harassment, and crimes as outrageous as gang rapes and honor killings.

Another reason for the violent sexual behavior exhibited by men is the popular belief that women and transgenders are sexual entities, meant to gratify male sexual desires.

In our society, boys and girls are segregated at an early age. They do not acquire the social skills that they need for appropriate interaction between the two genders. Maintaining and respecting each other’s physical and emotional boundaries and recognizing the lack or absence of consent are concepts so foreign to our youth.

Lack of mental, emotional, and sexual health education and segregation of genders are two main reasons for physical and sexual violence against women, transgender, and children in Pakistan.

Men have to stop undermining, body shaming, harassing, forcing marriages and pregnancies, raping, and honor killing women in the name of religion or culture. The most lamentable fact is that most of the time men from their own families or extended families are denying God-given rights to women. Consequently, when women come out to protest, they are shamed for that. The so-called moralists would say, “Look at them! These women are marching against their fathers and brothers.”

For God’s sake, Challenge this hypocrisy and recognize your responsibilities!