Think about this: half of a country’s population has no direct involvement in legislation, policy, development. That staggering situation is the reality faced by the women of Pakistan. Though there can be no denying Pakistan has come a long way in the struggle for gender equality, there is still much work to be done.
If the abilities of Pakistan’s women were properly utilized, the progress and quality of life of the entire nation would increase exponentially.
It is a backwards, ignorant and ugly mindset that would choose to continue the oppression of women by boxing them into roles. Doing this to our women stops Pakistan from going forward, and stops future generations from having educated, active and socially active mothers, sisters, and wives. We are holding our women back.
Imagine the shock one must feel at hearing a woman speak out against women’s rights!
It wasn’t too long ago that MP Samina Khawar Hayat, of the Punjab opposition, made the statement that women who find themselves single in their 30s should consider becoming the second wives of men who are already married. The irony cannot escape notice: while MP Hayat enjoys all the rights and freedoms of modern women, she demands that women recognize their need to be married and become secondary wives.
It would appear that there are whole political parties (and women in those parties!) who feel all women exist to be the wives of a man and to bear his children. It is a sad society that cannot see that there is untapped intellect in these individuals.
But there are more evolved and reasonable voices, too.
Sherry Rehman, senior leader of the PPP, cited a fatwa issued by Egypt’s Al Azhar, which said that the permission of the first wife was an absolute pre-requisite to a man’s wish to take a second wife. MP Hayat had argued it was not the case, that a man need not consult his first wife at all. Ms. Rehman appeared appalled at the silence from the Punjab government on this issue, and needless to say, so do we.
The fact is, women are key to progress. Pakistani women have come a long way and though they have much more to accomplish it sometimes seems the system is set up against them. Think about it, if there are female MPs decrying the idea of women being single, how can a single, intelligent, ambitious woman keep from being judged?
By holding our women back, we are essentially holding democracy back.