Women's Rights In Pakistan

Pakistan as a developing country has yet to go a long mile before it stands beside all the developed countries. The women make more than half the population of the country, but sadly they are not treated well. This year on March 8th, Pakistan also celebrated “the women’s day” in an attempt to make a change in their lives showing a ray of hope to every female. Domestic violence is one the harsh realities of a Pakistani women. Activists who work for women cause say that many women remain in violent relationships because they believe they must obey their husbands and that divorce is a shame.

Candle light vigil during the White Ribbon Campaign in Umerkot, Pakistan. Image by Flickr user CWGL. CC BY

Candle light vigil during the White Ribbon Campaign in Umerkot, Pakistan. Image by Flickr user CWGL. CC BY

According to a report of NGO White Ribbon Campaign (WRC) Pakistani women are subject to increasing abuse. Increased cases of violence are being reported each year in Pakistan. According to the report: “sexual harassment at the workplace, abuse, beating, and rape were some of the forms of violence against women.”

One third of women in Pakistan are uneducated and have very little concept about making their own choices. The police often snub the women and refuse to register cases unless there are obvious signs of injury and judges at times seem to sympathize with the husbands.

Dr. Farzana Bari, acting director of the Centre of Excellence in Gender Studies at Quaid-e-Azam University, states that commemorating the day around the UN theme “Equal rights, equal opportunities: progress for all” seems to be a fallacy “when rights and opportunities are simply disappearing from the lives of everyone; men, women and children.”

Are we then asking for equality in police torture recently shown on television channels? Equality in sharing the brutality of the factory-owner, who kidnapped, chained and tortured a laborer in Gujranwala? Do we want to share the humiliation of bus hostess in Sialkot? Do we want to have equality in the fate of Shazia, the young domestic servant who was tortured to death?

Global Voices author Sana Saleem at the Dawn Blog states that:

For a society to progress, human rights have to be guaranteed, with the assurance that rights are maintained without gender bias or discrimination. Gender-based violence reflects and reinforces injustices and compromises the health, dignity, and liberty of its victims.

In Pakistan a proposed bill to ban domestic violence is being debated in the parliament. Women rights activists and some Islamist lawmakers are chasing it. It remains to be seen who wins. Pakistani blogger Baaghi questions the efficacy of the judiciary as there is no strong law to protect the women:

At the end of the day, dispensation of justice begins from acknowledging an act as crime. If domestic violence is not even considered a punishable crime, how can one expect to get redress from the system? When acid throwing is not listed in the penal code as a form of offence, how one can even hope for it to be punishable? And when even some of these crimes against humanity are listed as crimes, our rotten system just refuses to acknowledge that it ever happened.

Pakistani women can achieve their goal by joining hands together and motivating each other. Educate women which will ensure awareness of what is happening to women around the world today is an essential step towards improving their situation. It is a surprising fact that women are made to do some of the things simply because of the fact that they are women. No one can change the world by themselves, but many people doing a little can make a real difference in the society. The nations that put up with the ill-treatment of women must know that they are being watched. A good number of governments are run by men who may not have the wish to transform things unless the world makes some noise.

The things which we can do at our level are:

  • We can educate ourselves.
  • We can be supportive of organizations that promote women's rights.
  • We can join hands and make our governments know that we are conscious of what's happening around the world and we will not allow it.
  • We can write to foreign embassies about the violence so that they can help us in promoting awareness.
  • We can increase awareness.
  • We can read about it.
  • We can write about it.
  • We can blog about it.
  • We can talk about it.


  • Zainab Ali

    The dilapidated condition of women rights has already been discussed on a number of forums, but I still feel that very little has been done in this regard. The government should and the civil society organizations must play a positive role in this regard, especially for women in rural areas.

  • […] Salman, writing for the blog Global Voices, discusses the importance of supporting the democratic government in passing this legislation. Pakistani women can achieve their goal by joining hands together and motivating each other. Educate […]

  • Jamshaid Khan Barki

    Totally unfair. White Ribbon Campaign how shamefully you are mixing individual’s crime with women’s rights in Pakistan. Even a woman in Pakistan can become prime minister (Benazir Bhutto twice), president (Dr. Fihmida Mirza acting president), speaker of National Assembly (Dr. Fihmida Mirza), Governor of State Bank (Dr. Shamshad Akhtar). The only country in the world, where 33% seats are reserved for the women of Pakistan without participation in Election. Participation in election is already available to all personals of the nation irrespect to gender. No door of education and technology is closed for them. Education, medical, science, art, pilot, every institute they can join.
    USA did not select Hellery Clinton as a country head because of her gender but we did twice. Bangladesh is another muslim country who has the honor of electing a woman as a country head. Khalida Zia and Hasina Sheikh are the shining examples. India has also the honor of electing a woman as a country’s head. Sri lanka does have the same honour.
    At least we, the entire sub-continent has given more rights than the people of Europe and West.
    For God sake White Ribbon Campaign, think before you leaf.

    • Manzoor H. Sarkar

      The arguments seem to me very childish & may serve only to the uneducated & fundamentalist mass & satisfy the sentiments of dominating male class in these underdeveloped societies of the sub-continent . Electing a female President or Prime Minister didn’t bring a real change to women’s position & rights in these societies at the grass root level . If one looks at the education & employment structure gender wise , it still prevails that women have little access to education , especially to higher education and very rarely represented at higher responsible positions in a company , enterprise or the Government . I guess although one can not expect a quick result in the improvement of the women’s position in these poor countries due to their present development level and lack of adequate funds , but the main contributing factors are their so called age old stupid traditions & religious orthodoxies where the males are the granted ever dominating force in all decision makings in a family , society or in the country. Women are regularly abused, tortured , raped but mostly denied equal & fair justice by the male dominating police & judiciary . In India the society in practice is still governed by the old orthodox hindu traditions , while in Pakistan by hardcore muslim fundamentalist practices .So , all these stories of comparing the women’s position in the sub-continent with that of the USA & other developed world countries are really very ridiculous. I guess even most of the liberal minded educated persons in the sub-continent don’t believe in these sort of praises & biasness .

  • Rida Malik

    Mr. Barki,

    While you may indeed be able to rattle off the statistics of women elected to national cabinets, I feel rather strongly that you are mislead in your belief that these women and their achievements reflect the conditions for the average female.

    Touting women on a pedestal (such as listing off those who have been successful) only serves to continually treat them as chattel, as a trophy, and widen the dichotomous nature between thought and action in the realm of womens rights in developing countries.

    We as the entire sub-continent have absolutely NOT given more rights to women, children, or men of a lower socio-economic background than the governments of Europe and ‘the West’. A blatant example is the lack of domestic violence laws in my own homeland – Pakistan.

    Until we begin to seriously use our actions to reinforce the necessity to secure the rights and freedoms of ALL persons within our nations, we will never truly achieve.

    I hope these tidbits of thought encourage you to reconsider your perspective Mr. Barki.

  • […] tradotto da Elena Intra · vai all’articolo originale […]

  • Build on the successes and adequately address the deficiencies. More than anything, a focus should be placed on improving access to education and basic resources. That will improve the situation for women in Pakistan.

  • basically it is culturally and religiously needs changing. Good thing about political level any woman came forward in politics became successful i.e pakistan paliament has lots of women mps.

  • San

    A very informative post; some times I feel that there’s nothing that we can do; male domination is very natural and accepted widely. Women are afraid to voice their opinions or fight for wat is right; they aren’t allowed to take decisions either. A divorced woman faces a lot of other issues, including public censure; and it just seems hopeless at times.

  • When Ambreen talks about women being given their basic rights, it is important to note that Education for women is highly pertinent. Without basic education women are ripped off all their rights in one go. If they can’t read and write then they are at the disposal of their fathers, their brothers, husbands and sons. Th entire debate of how women in countries like our are suppressed by the opposite gender in name of their honor and pride. about 8 out of 10 women in Pakistan are uneducated.
    Maybe this following video would put some light into the matter.


  • afifa

    Most Pakistani men will want to claim that Pakistan is an ‘Islamic’ Republic-can they then explain why they do not treat their women as Islam instucts ,not the ‘traditional’ version or interpretation of Islam that the patriarchal culture has concocted but the real QURANIC islam that demands that women be treated with honour and respect and infact directs severe punishment for those who violate this protected status.
    In Pakistan , what is practiced by the tribal clans with political influence be they the Zamindars, or Waderas,Politicians, Judiciary , Police, Public and Private institutions, Politicians and Goverment is Anti-women and therefore UNISLAMIC. Pakistan is forever condemmed to remain a backward country as long it fails to reform its Hudood laws and deny full rights to its women so that they can achieve their full potential as has been declared by Allah Almighty, our Common Maker.

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