KARACHI: Like every other night, a woman sells dried fruit at her Empress Market stall on Monday. International Women’s Day is being observed today with a renewed focus on ensuring better recognition of their domestic labour, which usually goes unappreciated. A recent World Bank report noted Pakistan had done much to facilitate women who work at night.—Shakil Adil / White Star
KARACHI: Like every other night, a woman sells dried fruit at her Empress Market stall on Monday. International Women’s Day is being observed today with a renewed focus on ensuring better recognition of their domestic labour, which usually goes unappreciated. A recent World Bank report noted Pakistan had done much to facilitate women who work at night.—Shakil Adil / White Star

WOMEN in Pakistan will be silent no more. Each year on March 8, International Women’s Day, their voices come together in an ever louder crescendo to demand that their inherent, constitutionally protected rights to dignity, and to security in the private and public domains be upheld. At the same time, while doing so, they are reminded in no uncertain terms of the long road that lies ahead before gender equality comes anywhere within reach of the vast number of their compatriots in the country. As the right-wing in Pakistan grows ever more emboldened in the face of appeasement by the state, their path has become increasingly treacherous — and twisted.

Ever since the Aurat March has evolved into a defining event to mark the day, it has grown starkly clear there is no tolerance for women collectively demanding their rights in such a visible and inclusive way, even when they do so entirely peacefully. For they threaten the edifice of the patriarchy from which flow so many advantages that many men take for granted in conservative societies like ours. That status quo enables them to prey on women in the public space, treat female family members as chattel, beat them and abuse them, and in extreme cases, even kill them in the name of ‘honour’ — far too often without any accountability whatsoever. And the biggest travesty is that groups which have no compunction committing violence — including murder — in the name of faith, are ready with bogus arguments about the march being contrary to tradition and religious principles. However, truth be told, the misogynistic heart of Pakistani society is laid bare not in the threats and intimidation from these purveyors of hate. It is the government’s shameful silence in the face of this aggression that speaks volumes. That the PTI is a party that once excoriated those who maligned the vocal female supporters thronging its months-long dharna in 2014 makes it doubly reprehensible. Clearly, the women were useful for political point-scoring at the time; otherwise, regressive elements can incite violence against them at will and face no consequences.

And this is why March 8 is so relevant for women in Pakistan. For, despite all the ‘pro-women’ laws that have been enacted over the last few years, their rights in actual practice remain circumscribed by narrow mindsets and hidebound tradition. In such a place, for a murderer to cast aspersions on his female victim’s character can be a viable strategy; and here, a court can set an honour killer free on appeal largely because he did not expressly say he took his sister’s life for the sake of honour. One step forward and two steps back. The women of Pakistan have had enough. They will make themselves heard. And it is the government’s duty to see they come to no harm while doing so.

Published in Dawn, March 8th, 2022

Opinion

Budgeting without people

Budgeting without people

Even though the economy is a critical issue, discussions about it involve a select few who are not really interested in communicating with the people.

Editorial

Iranian tragedy
Updated 21 May, 2024

Iranian tragedy

Due to Iran’s regional and geopolitical influence, the world will be watching the power transition carefully.
Circular debt woes
21 May, 2024

Circular debt woes

THE alleged corruption and ineptitude of the country’s power bureaucracy is proving very costly. New official data...
Reproductive health
21 May, 2024

Reproductive health

IT is naïve to imagine that reproductive healthcare counts in Pakistan, where women from low-income groups and ...
Wheat price crash
Updated 20 May, 2024

Wheat price crash

What the government has done to Punjab’s smallholder wheat growers by staying out of the market amid crashing prices is deplorable.
Afghan corruption
20 May, 2024

Afghan corruption

AMONGST the reasons that the Afghan Taliban marched into Kabul in August 2021 without any resistance to speak of ...
Volleyball triumph
20 May, 2024

Volleyball triumph

IN the last week, while Pakistan’s cricket team savoured a come-from-behind T20 series victory against Ireland,...