Original Articles

Pervasive chauvinism towards women -by Saria Benazir

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person. Men and women of full age without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry or to have a family.

They entitled to equal rights as to marriage and its dissolution. Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the attending spouses.

The family is the natural and fundamental group, unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and state”. But “the right to life of women in Pakistan is conditional on their obeying social norms and traditions”.

Pakistan has ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 1996, still women continue to be ‘commoditized’-bartered for land or money, given as swara (compensation for murder/dispute settlement) or watta satta (men acquire a wife by offering a sister or daughter in exchange), women are abused, raped or murdered by close relatives. ‘Honor’ killing was once an unusual custom but has more recently evolved into a common practice in which men kill sisters, daughters, or other female family members to avenge a ‘shame’ or ‘dishonor’ she is accused of bringing upon her family or tribe.

Behaviors considered to be ‘dishonorable’ are many and can include a woman wanting to marry a man of her choice; wishing to seek employment outside the home; publicly disobeying the family patriarch; being accused of having illicit relations or seeking a divorce.

Pakistani women are trapped in a web of dependency and subordination due to their low social, economic, and political status in society. The majority of women suffer from all forms of poverty.

In order to change women’s position and societal view of their inferiority, structural changes need to be brought about in the social and economic order that shape our social world. Presently, in order to maintain the status quo, institutionalized violence against women at the family, community, and state levels is used as a mechanism to ensure their compliance with gender norms. This serves to prevent any attempt leading to the subversion of the male order.

Ironically, at the same time, a great deal of rhetorical attention has been paid to gender issues at the national level. Pakistan has made several commitments at national and international forums to ensure gender equality at home.

However, there is a wide gap between commitment and implementation. The persuasion of the State to translate its commitment to gender equality into concrete reality is the major challenge faced by women in Pakistan.

Feminization of poverty is a global phenomenon. Women are the poorest among the poor and the most vulnerable among communities. Social relations of gender mediate women’s experience of poverty. Poverty in Pakistan has “woman’s face.”

There are considerable intrahouse hold disparities in food distribution and investment of resources between male and female members. Among poorer households, incidence of chronic malnutrition is higher among female children. Women’s access and control over productive resources are extremely limited. In addition to suffering from the same deprivations as men, women face the additional suffering of unequal opportunities to education, health, and other social services due to patriarchal control over their sexuality and cultural restrictions over their mobility.

Violence against women is a fundamental violation of the human right to life, physical safety, self-respect, and dignity. It is the manifestation of historically unequal power relations between men and women.

The social construction of gender establishes male authority and power over women, and provides the basis for gender-based violence in the society. Women are also victims of male honor. If the male honor is compromised in any way, the womenfolk of the rival party are humiliated by being made to strip off in public and paraded through the streets to take revenge from the family.

Marital rape is not even recognized as a criminal offense in Pakistani law, which is a negation of women’s right over their own sexuality. Rape in police custody is also widespread but vastly underreported as it involves members of the police as the perpetrators of this crime.

The provision of the Hudood Ordinance that requires four adult male Muslims of good repute as witnesses of the actual rape or the rapist to confess as a condition of proving rape has made it impossible for rape victims to get justice. Under this law, if a rape victim cannot prove rape she can be charged with and sentenced for adultery.

Trafficking of women is also on the rise. Foreign women from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Myanmar are brought to Pakistan and sold. Kidnapping, forced prostitution, and sexual violence at the workplace are other forms of violence on the rise.

Customary practices that include exchange of women between families, selling and buying women as a commodity, using women as barter to settle family disputes, marriage to Quran, and killing them in the name of honor are other forms of violence against women being condoned in the name of tradition and culture.

The increasing violence against women is a matter of serious concern. A society where violence against women is endemic can never fully develop either socially or economically.

Violence in the private domain undermines women’s confidence and self-esteem and destroys their health, while the fear of sexual assault in the public domain deprives them of their full participation in all aspects of development.

This is a high social and economic cost for the society to pay. In the words of Martin Luther King, “A mother’s place is inside her home, but she should also make certain, she gets outside that home enough to help worth while crusades and actively mould the country her children will live in.

She therefore holds a key position and her role in shaping the fate of the nation must be recognized and respected.”

About the author

Junaid Qaiser


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  • a well writen article regarding women suppression in pakistan.u have raised very important issues which r rarely given space in mainstream media.generally speaking, women position vis-a`-vis men is one of systematic gender subordination. it is rooted in the culture of dicrimination which denies women equal rights with men. Especially, ‘violence in private domain’is often ignored and rarely reported.what worries me is that even educated and financially independent women ,who r a victim of such abuse, donot raise their voice against it. family repute, lack of support from friends and relatives and pressure from society stops women from speaking up against domestic abuse, both psycological and physical. ‘understanding’ of a problem and ‘recognising’ it paves the way for its solution. ‘ROLE OF JUDICIARY’ is very important when it comes to honour killing , hudood ordinances, marriage to quran, rape etc. the ”controversial”verdict by the superior judiciary in mukhtara mai case is fresh in our minds. i really appreciate the writer for highlighting this very important issue. and thanks to LUBP team for publishing it.welldone, saria and keep it up.

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such as a marriage That limitation on women’s roles does not affect the position of leadership It is not necessarily common or certainly required that the rabbi of a community be the person to lead services So the fact that women do not participate in those areas does not limit the role of a spiritual leader of the community MARTIN: Who’s been fulfilling this role now I mean presumably in the practice of Orthodox Judaism as in the practice of other you know orthodox religious traditions men and women have different spheres And sometimes worship is done together sometimes worship is done separately But presumably there’s been a need for study now there’s been presumably a need for questions that are particularly sensitive for women Who fulfills this role now in orthodoxy FRIEDMAN: Sometimes the wife of the rabbi would often serve as like you said the female presence – answering questions that may be sensitive to women and that a woman would want to share with another woman Many communities especially in 2013 we see often that the wives of rabbis nowadays are very busy with their own professions and that is a role that is certainly sometimes still present but changing in many ways MARTIN: So I was going to ask you that – is it that the wives of rabbis are not as interested in playing this role or is it that congregations desire that a person fulfilling this role have the kind of training that a rabbi has FRIEDMAN: I think the way that Yeshiva Maharat is different is that we seek to formalize that position In other words it’s wonderful if you know there are wives of rabbis in the community and women who are educated and who want to get involved – that’s fantastic and that should not stop But what we also want to do is to provide a comprehensive training for women who do want to serve formally in these capacities who do want to be employed by the synagogue and to really be fully prepared for that role And what we’ve seen is that synagogues like I said they really – they desire that They crave that presence MARTIN: We do understand that though there is some controversy about Yeshiva Maharat and the position in general That there are some people within orthodoxy who still don’t think it’s appropriate for people to be trained in this way or to serve in this way I’m wondering why that is given that as you’ve mentioned that women have served informally in this role – often the wife of the rabbi the rebbetzin has served in that role Why do you think that there’s this pushback FRIEDMAN: So Orthodox Judaism operates within the parameters of Halacha of Jewish law At Yeshiva Maharat we do not do anything that is beyond the confines of Halacha of the Jewish law because like I mentioned we do not lead services for example So we do not step out of that role However in many communities – have not had – many orthodox communities I should say have not had that formal position of a woman serving as the spiritual leader of that congregation And there are certain communities and individuals who feel that that is a break from tradition and that that is doing something new and something that orthodoxy has not had be such a common thing so far And therefore that that – it’s a deviation from what the community has done until now MARTIN: Do I have it right that your father is a rabbi FRIEDMAN: Yes he is MARTIN: And you’re graduating on Father’s Day So nice present for him I hope I hope he still gets to play golf or whatever he does FRIEDMAN: Well I’m making him fly to New York City MARTIN: Right exactly Do you mind if I ask how does he feel about this new undertaking of yours FRIEDMAN: Thank God he has been very very supportive He probably like all good parents was a little nervous at first about how it would impact my life But he has been nothing but supportive and eager and excited MARTIN: What kinds of concerns does he have FRIEDMAN: Well when I started it was four years ago I was 24 I was not married I was younger and just worrying that this – it was an immensely positive decision for me And like I said I’ve never regretted it for a second But any good parent worries about their child when they’re going to do something new But it was only mild concern I don’t want to overplay that MARTIN: You are married now right FRIEDMAN: I am married now it did not cause much of a hindrance MARTIN: Though he was worried that you wouldn’t find a partner That people would be. FRIEDMAN: It says something. MARTIN: What That people wouldn’t accept you or that what FRIEDMAN: In the orthodox communities they say that you’re a student at Yeshiva Maharat Like I said I’ve been very supported by the community but it’s still you know to say I’m the first woman in the program to train orthodox women to be spiritual leaders does speak strongly to my character MARTIN: Well congratulations FRIEDMAN: Thank you MARTIN: And happy Father’s Day to your dad FRIEDMAN: I will tell him you said that MARTIN: That was Ruth Balinsky Friedman She is the soon to be maharat at Ohev Shalom – The National Synagogue in Washington DC She joined us from our bureau in New York Soon to be Maharat Ruth thank you so much for joining us FRIEDMAN: Thank you so much for having me Copyright 2013 NPR All rights reserved No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR This transcript is provided for personal noncommercial use only pursuant to our Terms of Use Any other use requires NPR’s prior permission Visit our permissions page for further information NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR and accuracy and availability may vary This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio If anyone wanna know, Santa Claus.Benny Waters will long be remembered for his virtuosity ― and his longevity vocalist, What if there were an airport that you actually looked forward to being stuck in?

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