Role of women in Pakistani society

Role of women in Pakistani society

Main articles: Women in Pakistan, Role of women in Pakistani media, Women in the Pakistan Armed Forces, and Protection of Women Against Violence Bill 2015

Fatima was the first women to run a presidential campaign in Asia.

Benazir Bhutto was the first woman elected to lead a Muslim state, and is the only one to be elected twice

Malala Yousafzai is the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate.

The social status of women in Pakistan varies and considerably depends on the social class, upbringings, and regional divide due to uneven socioeconomic development and the impact of social formations on women’s lives in the country.[479] Pakistan has had a long history of feminist activism since its birth. Since 1947, the APWA and Aurat Foundation– the influential feminist organizations— have played strong roles in inculcating awareness about women’s rights in the country. Personalities such as Begum Rana’a, Benazir Bhutto, Malala Yousafzai and Kalsoom Nawaz have been influential in Pakistan’s feminist culture. The status of women, overall, has improved due to enhanced religious and educational knowledge. However, with regard to the global average, the situation is quite alarming. In 2014, the World Economic Forum ranked Pakistan as the second worst country in the world in gender equality.

The relationship of women with the opposite gender is culturally that of gender subordination. There are certain assumed and assigned roles of women that are related to domestic chores compared with men who are the breadwinners and professionals of the family. Contrastingly, in urban areas of the country, more and more women are assuming professional roles and are contributing to family economics but the ratio of these women compared with those in traditional roles is way less. Most favoured occupations for females accepted by society are that of Teaching and Tutoring. Due to heightened awareness among people, educational opportunities for Pakistani women have increased over the years. On 24 February 2016, the elected assembly of Pakistan’s Punjab province passed a new law called “Punjab Protection of Women Against Violence Bill 2015 ” which provides women with protection against a multitude of crimes including: cyber crime, domestic violence, emotional, economic and psychological abuse.

Women in Pakistan Army

  “Be prepared to train the women in combat…..
Islam doesn’t want women to be shut up and never see fresh air”
— Muhammad Ali Jinnah, c. 1940s, Cited source

In 1948, the first lady of Pakistan Begum Ra’ana took the lead in starting the women’s voluntary service in 1948 to support the medical and logistics for the Pakistan Armed Forces engage in the Indo-Pakistani war of 1947. This led the formation of women unit in the Pakistan Army Corps of Medical; a first attempt was also made in introducing the combat training program for women but such attempts were dismissed by General Frank Messervy. In 1949, the first lady took personal initiatives and established her own Pakistan Army Women National Guard (WNG) with few combat courses were introduced. The unit’s first GOC and chief controller was Begum Ra’ana, with the rank of a Brigadier.

In the 20th century, women were restricted participating in the active duty combat operations, although a sizable unit of women soldiers were deployed in hostile areas to support the medical operations only. In 2002, Shahida Malik was promoted to two-star rank and was the first women Major-General as well as first general officer commanding of the Pakistan Army Medical Corps. As of current, Major-General Shahida Badsha is in the line of promotion to be promoted to first female Lieutenant-General, a three-star rank officer. She is also the first female colonel-commandant of the Army Medical College (AMC).

Another name, Lieutenant Colonel Shahida Akram Bhurgri of Pakistan Army Medical Corps is also known to be the First Ever Lady Doctor from Sindh to get commissioned in Pakistan Army. Prior to her, there were no Sindhi Female Doctors in Pakistan Army.

Apart from the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 and post-1971 war, due to a growing need for ground forces, women were needed in roles in the field. The manpower shortages goaded the army to allow women taking more part in fields related to Medical and Engineering, since its establishment, women are historically barred from battle in the Pakistan Army, serving in a variety of technical and administrative support roles. Since 2004, women are trained in warfare, but are not part of any fighting formations. Women who are appointed in the high-ranking position actively participate in usually medical operations plannings.

On 14 July 2013, 24 female officers in the Pakistan Army mostly Doctors and Software Engineers successfully completed a paratroopers’ course at the Parachute Training School, becoming the first group of women to do so in the military’s history.

Women in Pakistan Air Force

In 2003, the PAF started a new combat programme by inducting women to be trained as fighter pilot. In 2006, the first batch of women fighter pilots joined the combat services of the PAF. The chief of army staff General Ahsan Saleem Hyat handed certificates of honour to the successful men and women cadet in the PAF Academy. Women fighter pilots the F-7 fighter jets and are trained in carrying out the bombing and aerial combat missions. The women in PAF also operates a feminist organization, the Pakistan Air Force Women Association (PAFWA), to promote women to join the PAF as a combat pilot and to promote women’s health in the air force. However, since 2012 the PAF has stopped inducting women as fighter pilots because of a growing rate of unfitness and lack of flying aptitude in the women already inducted.

Role of women in Pakistani media

Pakistani media has recently undergone many changes, including the role women play in it. It is striving to create awareness among masses about women’s rights and speaks largely about feminism. In rural areas, women lacked awareness and education however due to media, now they are more aware and the gender gap is reducing to a great extent. Many of the people are giving negative opinions regarding the role of media. Media has a detrimental role to play and doesn’t facilitate women in any way. Most of the people were of the opinion that media has projected a negative image of women and brought her weak points to the forefront. The drama industry has a big responsibility to shoulder in this regard.

The drama Zindagi Gulzar Hai was a great success by the media in showing a positive image of women in the society and her cultural importance. Most of the time, media shows negative things regarding women but this drama turned the direction to 180 degrees. This drama specially the role of Kashaf should have resulted in motivation of many females and families who lack sons. Such dramas must be appreciated and more efforts like this must be done to promote the role of women through media.

Protection of Women Against Violence Bill 2015

Protection of Women Against Violence Bill 2015 is a bill drafted by CM’s Special Monitoring Unit (Law and Order) and passed by the Provincial Assembly of the Punjab which was signed into a law on 1 March 2016 by Malik Muhammad Rafique Rajwana. The law declares physical violence, abusive language, stalking, cyber crimes, sexual violence, psychological and emotional abuse against women a crime in Punjab, home to 60% of Pakistan’s population. Additionally, it creates a toll-free universal access number (UAN) to receive complaints while district protection committees will be established to investigate complaints filed by women. Centres will also be set up for reconciliation and resolution of disputes. Every district would have women’s shelters and district-level panels to investigate reports of abuse and mandates the use of GPS bracelets to keep track of offenders.

The bill aim’s is to promote gender equality in the province, it allows women to get a residence order, the victim has a right to stay in the house if she doesn’t want to vacate it or the defendant has to provide an alternative accommodation to the victim if she wants so. Further, if she is being harassed or stalked, she can claim a protection order which ordains the defendant to not communicate with her or stay a certain distance from her. In addition, the victim can also seek monetary relief from the defendant to meet expenses occurred and losses suffered through monetary orders in this bill. The law has been termed as divisive, in particular right-wing religious parties have rejected the women protection bill terming it ‘un-Islamic’. A broad collation of far-right political parties in Pakistan was created to oppose to bill, including Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan, Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan Islami Tehreek and Ahl al-Hadith. Council of Islamic Ideology has also opposed the bill while Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman has called the law as part to ‘fulfill the foreign agenda’. The bill has been challenged at the Federal Shariat Court.

On March 1, 2016, the first case was registered under the law in Lahore by Bassra Bibi, 30, who filed a complaint against her husband for domestic abuse, within an hour the police arrested her husband. Proponents of the bill have staged rally’s to oppose the backlash by conservatives, it has been termed as the first time that a legislation provides protection through an in-built implementation mechanism to ensure speedy justice-delivery to victims. This is through the establishment of SMULawOrder’s conceived ′Violence Against Women Centers′ and the details of this centre are provided below

Violence Against Women Centres (VAWCs) In Punjab, daily, 6 women are murdered or attempted to murder, 8 raped, 11 battered and assaulted, and 32 women are abducted while the conviction rate is only 1-2.5% (DIG Investigations Branch 2013). Women victims of violence have to undergo a snake and ladder system of justice delivery in order to just lodge an FIR. Chief Minister’s Special Monitoring Unit (Law & Order), under the direction of Chief Minister Punjab is establishing Violence Against Women Centres (VAWC) in Punjab’s 36 districts, in order to provide a comprehensive justice delivery system to women victims of violence. The first VAWC is currently under construction in Multan district, which will be made operational by June 2016. The model will be replicated in the remaining 35 districts, through a phase-wise program, as specified under the Punjab Protection of Women against Violence Act. The establishment of Violence Against Women Centres will entirely change the current lethargic system by stream-lining the case-flow process and integrated the departments through a software. With these 24-hour all-1omen run VAWCs all disconnected departments will be brought under one roof – first aid, police reporting, FIR lodging, prosecution, medical examination, forensics and post trauma rehabilitation in order to strengthen the case of the prosecution. A toll-free helpline, community centre and shelter home are also part of these centres. In the Women Protection Act, These enters have been mandated in all 36 districts of Punjab.

The bill has been praised by academics including the Vice Chancellor of GCU Lahore, National Students Federation, Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, activists including Asma Jahangir and Farzana Bari, political parties including the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (N) and opposition Pakistan Peoples Party. On March 20, 2016, demonstrations were held in Lahore and Faisalabad to support the bill. A joint action committee (JAC) comprising political and human rights activists and civil society members was formed to support the law. The only religious organisation to support the bill is the All Pakistan Ulema Council. The bill has generally been hailed as comprehensive in liberal circles in Pakistan. Newspaper editorials including by The Express Tribune, Dawn, Daily Times and The Friday Times has supported the bill.

Categories:   Women Empowerment