Politics is a term used for activities associated with the governance of a state, country or area. Women in power, not just in politics are faced with obstacles that are gender-driven, societal norms that discourage their growth, restrictions and expectations that may bog many down. One must acknowledge that females, who bring life into earth and are among the strongest species in the world. They are not only the homemakers but they can be the bread earners and leaders as well.
Egyptian female pharaohs are claimed to be the first female rulers on this planet who ruled in BCs. Cleopatra ruled is a fine example who ruled very efficiently and cleverly. Furthermore, if in the patriarchal times of 16th century, when the church and religion was given much importance, female monarchs like Queen Mary Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth I could have ruled the entire states then it must be realized that its just a matter of power and will that has and can keep women rising.
Women’s participation started from the colonial period forward. Women with and without the right to vote had been involved in politics. Property-owning women in a few colonies had the right to vote. Without the vote, women attended rallies created organizations aimed at helping poor women and children and joined in reform movements like movement for abolishing slavery. Feminism emerged in the mid-19th century, which was the beginning of a revolution in women’s life. It was an international movement which aimed at ending female inequality in male-dominated societies.
In the early 20th century British feminism sought to campaign for women’s suffrage. Women also played an eminent role in the World War they ran their households by doing jobs and hence became independent. Noticing these changing aspects and roles of women it made it impossible for the male elite to deny women the right to vote and hence the 19th amendment was made with the support of the then President Woodrow Wilson’s.
Despite of gaining suffrage it became increasingly clear to women that the political process alone left many of their needs unsatisfied, if not unrecognized. There was a certain stereotypical approach towards hiring employees. It was believed that a man is more capable of doing jobs because he is rational and physically and mentally more strong than women. Thus, men were easily hired but women were not given jobs because they were thought to irrational, emotional and weak.
If women, by any chance, were given jobs they were given low wages and ridiculed because of their gender. However, in post-World War Two British legislation made a gesture towards the exclusion of discrimination against women at work with the 1970 Equal Pay Act and the 1975 Sex Discrimination Act. One must acknowledge the fact that discrimination based on gender is not just related to politics but it can be traced back to other issues like employment, education and health as well.
There were other official declarations and acts that contributed to the empowerment and liberation of women. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) was the first comprehensive set of laws and rights for women. It ensured the elimination of all acts of discrimination against women on a personal and organizational level. Also, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) entitles all human beings as equal and giving them the right to life, liberty, freedom, work, education etc. Hence these two documents proved a milestone in end of gender politics.
In the modern world, discrimination still prevails massively. Even the developed states cannot claim that discrimination is completely excluded from their society, culture and area. Discrimination can be found from home to organizations. If a problem is not tackled from its root level then it cannot be tackled from above because it will keep growing. Thus, firstly, one must try and eliminate the discrimination from home.
Gender discrimination is very much prevalent in developing and underdeveloped countries. Unfortunately, Asia is a major victim of the stereotypical thinking that male members are important for the prosperity and well being of the home and family. It is thought only men can be the bread earner and he is superior to women because women are weak and need the protection of a man to be able to survive in society. Pakistan and India are the major victims of this ideology. But despite all these social and cultural ideologies, there have been women in history who rebelled, challenged and succeeded against the norms.
In Pakistan, we have the example of Fatima Jinnah, sister of Muhammad Ali who fought for the rights of Muslims in the subcontinent and founded Pakistan. Fatima Jinnah founded Pakistan’s Women’s Association which played a vital task in the settlement of the women migrants in the newly formed country. She was an ultimate supporter and advisor of Quaid e Azam. She, even after his brother’s death, fought for the betterment of Pakistan.
Begum Ra’ana is another example who stood for the rights of women and her country. She was the wife of Pakistan’s first Prime Minister Liaqat Ali Khan. She played a major role in the Pakistan Movement and creating political awareness among women. She encouraged hundreds of women to fight for Pakistan shoulder-to-shoulder with men. Ra’ana was appointed as an executive member of the Muslim League and the Chairperson of the Economic Division of the Party.
Benazir Bhutto was the first female prime minister of Pakistan, who even held the office twice. She gained this position after fighting for justice for his assassinated father and brothers, the Bhuttos. She brought pride to the women of Pakistan. The job quota for women coupled and the setting up of a first women bank are some of her contributions towards the economic uplifting of women.
In India, Indra Gandhi was the first and, to date, the only female Prime Minister of India. She was the daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of India. She strengthened the divorce laws, made agricultural improvements that led to India’s self-sufficiency in grain production. It was because of her tactics that India won the war and Pakistan was divided into two states and Bangladesh was formed.
Other Asian countries with Muslim majority like Indonesia, Iraq, Jordan, Iran, Malaysia, and Saudi Arab also have issues regarding women empowerment and especially the political participation for women. These countries have a significant amount of gap between the male and female gender. The gender gap in Iraq seems to be amplifying with incidents of gender-based violence and limited participation of women in important fields. Likewise, Jordan despite of having women equal or greater education level than men are still deprived of equal economic opportunity or participation. In Iran, gender segregation exists in the workplace, sports events etc. Iran ranks 141 out of 145 countries in the World Economic Forum’s 2015 Global Gender Gap Index.
Saudi Arab is a country with extreme patriarchy, gender segregation and discrimination. Women are thought as minors and it is necessary for them to have a male “mahram” in order to move in society. If this rule is not abided by then they have to face punishments. It was in 2015, that the Saudi women were given the right to vote for the first time. Every personal and political decision about women is made by men.
Another contributing factor to less representation of women in politics and the culture of gender politics prevailment is feudalism. The feudal lords keep females away from education and participation in any activity that may lead them to the awareness and enlightenment of their rights. In such area women are usually considered as property and women objectification is very common. Same is the case with tribal law.
However, we have examples of several Pakistani women who stood up for their rights and are directly or indirectly participating in politics. Indirectly many women participated in politics after the rigged election of 2013 in Pakistan. They took to the roads and protested and demanded for free and fair elections. Although the majority of the protestors belonged to the elite and educated class but we see that the general female public of Pakistan is not completely detached from politics and is ready to stand up for their rights.
In 2008, there were many private agreements in the tribal and jirga system of FATA which banned women from voting. It is a place where if a woman goes out of her house without a man, it is considered a very big deal. In such a place Badam Zari was the first woman to contest for a parliamentary seat in 2013. She knew that she would not be supported and voted for but she wanted to take a stand for equality and work for the tribal women’s welfare.
Zartaj Gul, hold the office of ministry of climate change in the present government. She is a Balochi but lives in the tribal area of DG Khan. In the recent elections she fought against the represtative of two very famous clans i.e the Khosas and Legharis. She was able to turn tables on both of them simultaneously and after many years these clans were defeated. By succeeding in the election she did not only defeated the tribal taboos but also the fixed mindsets.
Tehmina Durrani is also considered as a major example among the women who stood for her rights. She, after suffering in a marriage with Mustafa Khar, started her NGO for empowering women. She recently has also taken the task of helping sexually abused children, after the Kasur incident. She narrates the story of her battle with the tribal system and women oppression in her book “My Feudal Lord.”
Several celebrities are also engaged in such activities like Massarat Misbah, Sarwat Gillani, Mehwish Hayat, Reema khan who are becoming a voice for the underprivileged and are contributing to the society. Such women have not only fought against the social and cultural taboos but they have provided inspiration and have also set an example for other women in the country. Apart from these women, there are many more other women like Bilqees Edhi, who are not directly linked with the politics but have been serving the nation with their amazing philanthropic works and are a blessing to the people in need of help.
Despite of all the visible changes in the norms and conditions, women’s political representation remains subdued and disproportionate at global level. UN data shows that only 22.8% of all national parliamentarians were women in 2016 (up from 11.3% in 1995). Only 11 women serve as head of state. And the UN itself, and many of its agencies, remain headed, predominantly, by men. Women’s political empowerment is enhancing because of the gender quota in legislatures has increased due to their participation in different fields in the recent years. Today, our parliament has 60 seats reserved for women and the total inclusive of those in the four provincial assemblies goes up to 188 seats.
Pakistan remains one of those countries where women even in the twenty-first century remain subjected to primitive gender which are at the root of the pervasive political, legal, economic and social inequalities that perpetuate women’s lack of access to resources, education, health care, employment, decision making and participation in public life. They are also victims of gruesome forms of gender-based violence, pervasive denial of justice. Some of the victims prefer to seek asylum in other countries rather than live under conditions of insecurity in their homeland.
In recent years, no doubt, there has been a conspicuous increase in the number of women in our political institutions but merely showcasing the presence of a few privileged and heavily painted females with designer outfits in our cabinet or legislative chambers is neither gender-mainstreaming nor empowering of women. They only aggravate the already acute sense of socio-economic deprivation. The key to our social problems regarding the ‘betterment and empowerment’ of women in Pakistan and in general, lies in comprehensive ‘legislative and budgetary’ packages to close the existing gender gaps in our health, education and employment sectors, and to remove all gender-based barriers in our interests and capabilities, its problems and disorders, and its legal system.
Widening gender inequalities in our country will not be bridged just by acknowledging what is wrong with us. The gender gaps will be closed only with concrete and sustained actions backed by the necessary allocation of resources to promote literacy and basic health services for women in Pakistan, especially in rural and other backward areas. Effective legal measures are also needed to protect women against all kinds of gender-based violence and harassment.
To conclude, one must realize that gender politics will always prevail. The world is slowly making its way to being less gendered. But it is impossible to claim that one day this gender politics will completely vanish.
Cite this Gender Politics Essay
Gender Politics Essay. (2020, Aug 05). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/gender-politics-essay/