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Violence Against Women and Gender Inequality in Pakistan

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    Violence against women & gender inequality exists across the globe with varying degrees. No country has closed the gap entirely. The Global Gender Gap Report 2020 by the World Economic Forum has found that it will take 100 years to achieve gender parity globally. For my essay, I have chosen to research women in Pakistan as it faces huge issues related to violence & discrimination against women. Even though Pakistan’s constitution doesn’t contain any discriminatory laws against women. In the contstituion of Pakistan, Article 25 subsection (1) “All citizens are equal before law and are entitled to equal protection of law”, subsection (2) “There shall be no discrimination on the basis of sex” is consistent with the UDHR. These 2 subsections clearly show that in the eyes of the law both are equal then why is there such discrimination? Article 34 of the constitution states “Steps shall be taken to ensure full participation of women in all spheres of national life”. These laws show that the constitution makes it mandatory for the government to make sure that women receive equal rights. But, there is another article of the constitution, Article 31 which states “Steps shall be taken to enable the Muslims of Pakistan, individually and collectively, to order their lives in accordance with the fundamental principles and basic concepts of Islam and to provide facilities whereby they may be enabled to understand the meaning of life according to the Holy Quran and Sunnah.”

    In order to provide this “facility to understand the meaning of life according to the Holy Quran and Sunnah” the Council of Islamic Ideology has been established. This Council is always consulted before a law is made to make sure it is inline with the Islamic principles. As Pakistan is an Islaimc country, more weight is given to the Council’s recommendations than the constitution which results in laws that are not consistent with Article 25, 34 or the UDHR etc. but follow Article 31 resulting in discrimination & violence.

    In Pakistan, nearly 22.5 million children are out-of-school. 32% of primary school age girls are out of school vs 21% of boys, 59% of girls are out-of-school by grade 6 vs 49% of boys, and by grade 9 only 13% of girls remain in school. Girls, specifically, are unable to attain proper education due to several factors. I will be discussing some of them in this paper. One of these factors is the governments’ lack of investment in educating girls. According to UNESCO, the Pakistani government should spend at least 15%-20% of its total national budget and 4%- 6% of the GDP on education but in 2016, only 12.6% of the total expenditure & in 2017, only 2.758% of the GDP was spent on education which is way to less than the required amount. Also, there is no enforcement by government officials to enroll or retain children in school, which is inconsistent with Article 25A“The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of five to sixteen years in such manner as may be determined by law.”

    The current number of government schools is not nearly sufficient for educating the entire population of Pakistan. Because of this shortage, private schools have started which require higher fees so families cannot send their children there. Aisha,30, lives with her husband & 6 children in Peshawar, the nearest government school is only for boys, is less than a five-minute walk, and goes through 10th grade. But the nearest government school for girls is a 30-minute walk and goes only through 5th grade. Aisha’s daughter gave up school at 9 years age as her parents felt that she was not safe when walking to school.

    Pakistan ranks 117 out of 180 on the Corruption Perception Index 2018. Often, people just buy teaching positions e.g., pay Rs.200,000 (US$1905) or politicians reward their loyal supporters by giving them these positions. In 2017, 2,000 fake teacher IDs and 349 “ghost schools” were found by UNESCO.

    Even though government schools are mostly free, students still have to pay enrollment fees (Rs10-primary, Rs20-secondary), exam fees (Rs20-primary, Rs30-secondary school), buy their own textbooks (Rs3,000/month), uniforms (more than Rs1,000), school supplies,(Rs500-600/year) school bags (more than Rs500), additional transportation costs for girls (most schools are not within walking distance or not safe to walk). Most families cannot afford such expenditures. In 2016, the government a new ‘poverty level,’consisting of adults subsisting on under Rs.3,030/month($29) as living in poverty. Using this benchmark, 60 million Pakistanis (29.5%)-6.8 to 7.6 million families were determined to be living in poverty. A family living within this amount can barely survive, they can simply not afford to spend money on education. Also, documents such as birth certificates, national identification cards, transcripts from previous schools are required for admission in schools. As there are often no government office nearby to get these documents, either the parents don’t put the effort needed or the enrolment process takes up a lot of time, delaying girls education, then they get placed according to their age not their abilities which results in them further wasting their time.

    The quality of education provided by government schools and private schools are both poor. The government schools are overcrowded (supposed to be 35 but are 45-50, 1 teacher is required to teach 2 sections=1 teacher teaching 90-100 kids), have nearly no sanitation facilities (such as drinking water or toilets), have underqualified teachers who use corporal punishment on the students. Mostly teachers don’t even come to school due to the inadequate salary (Rs.15,000, minimum wage Rs.12,000). All these factors lead to no quality education. Private schools generally have better facilities and teachers but the quality of education is still poor as there is no standard government regulation. Private schools can choose to teach their own curriculum which results in schools teaching drastically different curriculums. The inspectors come once or twice a year, they are just bribed to get a good report. Corporal punishment is used by teachers in both government and private schools which drives children away from school.

    Poverty is a huge barrier for girls education. In most Pakistani families, the father is the sole breadwinner, working in a factory while the mother is a homemaker. When the father dies or becomes ill, the mother starts working in home or as a domestic worker and the daughters (if going to school) have to drop out to do housework. The reason the daughters have to drop out and not the sons is that the chances of getting employment for girls is not much so families invest their money in their sons. Another reason that families don’t invest in girls is that; girls get married and go to live in their in-laws house so even if daughters get employment, the money goes to the in-laws not their parents whereas, whatever the son earns it will come to the parents. They invest in their future. When girls dropout of school, they take on the housework and also work in home e.g., sewing, doing embroidery etc. to earn some money. Sometimes, the elder sister has to seek employment and the younger sisters have to drop out and take on the housework. Parents make their children work from such a young age as they see no point of sending them to school, the quality of education is so poor, the chances of employment are low. In some communities, girls going to school is even considered disgraceful and the parents are harassed by the community. Parents bar their daughters from going to school, they are afraid they will engage in romantic relationships or be sexualy assaulted and “dishonor” the family.

    Girls also face sexual harassment within school as well as on the way to school. When girls leave their home, boys follow them, they whistle, stare, harass, curse and throw things at them. There is harassment from the male students & teachers. Girls never tell their parents about the harassment as they don’t want to be pulled out of school and confined to the house. Girls often walk through dangerous areas to get to school and risk getting kidnapped and sexually assaulted.

    There have also been terrorist attacks on schools by the Taliban. Malala Yousafzai, an education advocate was shot in the head on October 9, 2012 for her efforts when she was traveling home from school. The attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar on December 16, 2014 in which 145 children died, has resulted in many people becoming afraid of sending their children to school. In response to this attack, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif released 20 points that schools need to follow to ensure the security of their students but these points have made the school responsible for enhancing & maintaining the security. Some schools have armed students and teachers as a result.

    Poverty-stricken families often get their daughters married off as soon as they start menstruating, as a way of lightening their load and stopping gossip among community people. UNICEF determined that 21% are married before turning 18, 3% are married before turning 15. The result of these child marriages is, girls drop-out of school, face greater pregnancy-related health risks, their babies are more likely to have health problems as well, are more likely to face domestic violence, early marriage sinks them further into poverty as they don’t obtain education or proper employment to get out of poverty. The current minimum age requirement for marriage in Pakistan is 18 years for boys and 16 years for girls but it is not enforced. Multiple bills have been introduced to increase the age requirement for girls to 18 years as well, but the Council of Islamic Ideology has always opposed it saying that it is unislamic as guardians can get children married at any time without the children’s consent.

    The teachings of this Council has also led to many families forcing their daughters to marry when they are just 12 years without their consent. When some women disobey norms of marriage, they are killed in the name of “honour”. Honor killings are done by the family of the victim, the in-laws or the community in order to punish disobedience of the woman and make an example of her for other women. They police and government turn a blind-eye to them and killers are rarely remorseful. An 18 year old woman was shot and thrown into a canal because she married a man the parents didn’t approve. A 25 year old woman was stoned to death in front of Lahore High Court by her family because she married a man of her choice and refused the one the family had arranged for her. She was stoned to death in the presence of the police. The police just stood there watching and when the husband asked them to help his wife they simply said “this is not our duty”. Another example of “honor” killing is the story of the social media star Qandeel Baloch, who was strangled to death by her own brother in her parents’ home because he felt that her videos online brought “dishonor” to the family. There was a lot of outrage nationally and internationally at her death but some people also said things like “she displeased God and that’s why this happened to her”. There are an estimated 1,000 honor killings every year in Pakistan. And nearly all of them happened because the women married of her own choice, refused an arranged marriage, is suspected of adultery, is seen socializing with men or disobeys any other social norm.

    Sexual violence in Pakistan is immense. In 2002, Mukhtaran Bibi, 30, was gang raped on the orders of the village council as an ‘honour rape’. Because her brother was suspected of having sexual relations with a woman from a higher caste. After being raped, she was expected to commit suicide but Mukhtaran spoke up and pursued the case. 6 men (including the 4 rapists) were sentenced to death for rape on 1 September 2002 by an anti-terrorism court. When appealed to the Lahore High Court they cited ‘insufficient evidence’ and acquitted 5 of the 6 convicted, and the 6th man was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2005. Mukhtaran appealed to the Supreme Court, but in 2011, the Supreme Court also acquitted the accused and rather, she has also been repeated forced to drop charges. Kainat Soomro, 13, was kidnapped and gang raped for four days. Her brother has been killed, her sisters have lost their husbands or fiances, she has gotten death threats from her village elders & her rapists who have still not been arrested after all these years. On a public protest the provincial minister for women’s development Tauqeer Fatima Bhutto told them to go home and she even offered them money. Another young woman was gang raped by four policemen in Rawalpindi. Only one officer has been arrested.

    The policemen barged into her home, locked her husband and uncle in a room and raped her. A 16-year-old girl was raped on the orders of the panchayat as punishment for her brother’s conduct in 2017.Another girl was raped in 2017 by influential members of the panchayat because she married against the wishes of her family. A 16-year old girl had gone in the fields in the morning, when unidentified men raped her and then strangled her to death. A 7 years-old girl, Zainab Ansari was raped and strangled to death in Kasur. Asma, a 3-year-old girl, was found in a dumpster in Mardan, after being missing for 24 hours. She had been raped before her murder as revealed by her post-mortem report. These examples clearly show that there is a lot of gender-based violence in Pakistan and in most cases the rapists/criminals are free even after getting convicted instead the victim is threatened to stay quiet. Along with sexual violence, women also face domestic violence at the hands of the males of the house (father, husband, brother, son etc.) An estimated 5000 women are killed/year from domestic violence, with 1000s of others maimed or disabled. Also, study by the United Nations found that 50% of married women have experienced sexual violence and 90% have been psychologically abused. These numbers of the women who face violence from people who are in their house, forget about people from outside.

    On top of everything else, Pakistan also has a history of child abuse. These are the most recent statistics related to child abuse. In 2018, 3,832 cases of child abuse have been reported, there is an increase of 33% in child sexual abuse cases. Corporal punishment is still used in Pakistani schools which is a form of child abuse. Girls are more vulnerable to being abused between ages 0-5, 16-18. Boys are more vulnerable between ages 6-10 and 11-15. So far, the number of cases have only risen and there is nothing being done about efficiently.

    People are trafficked to Pakistan as well as from Pakistan. Women are trafficked for prostituion or working in agriculture fields and men are trafficked for labour. After combining all the men, women and children trafficked, the number adds up to almost 1 million people. Pakistan is in the “Tier 2 watchlist” of the U.S. State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. It has a lot of people getting trafficked but the government is working to solve this issue.

    In Pakistan, 49% are women, but women are only 24.8% of the labour force vs. 82.5% men, this gender gap is the highest around the globe. Women’s share in wage employment is just 15% as most of them are homemakers (54%). Women receive 74% of men’s wages which is an hourly wage gap of 26%. Out of all the women employed only 37% are paid regularly, 55% received less than Rs.12,000(the minimum wage). 20% of the female population is employed vs. 64% male which means 80% of female labour is not being utilised which could greatly improve Pakistan’s GDP. Only 2% of the females labourers are registered with the provincial social security institutions resulting in 98% labourers have no social protection in case of an of workplace accident, maternity, disease. Reducing its gender gap by 25% will increase its GDP by 9%($139 billion more than the US aid in the last 16 years-$33 billion) as well as the CPEC loans & investments ($60 billion). Allowing its females to work would improve its economy so much then why doesn’t it do that? The reason is quite simple; because of the patriarchal society and the terrorists that are adamant that girls should not get educated or work, the men in the country are unable to think about women being equal to them that they try all possible things to make sure that women and girls don’t get the education they should.

    All these statistics show that women are behind men in all sectors except suffering violence at which they are in first place. Women are mostly confined to the homes and don’t posse anh tools to possibly understand politics in the country. Many don’t even want to participate in politics as they see as a dirty game, false promises, deception, violence, power play for the rich rather than a way to make a difference. So, even when women cast they often are not even aware of the mandate of the person they just cast votes according to what the males in their family tells them to vote for. The women who do run campaigns and participate in politics are mostly from influential families of males who are already in top positions.They don’t really work for the issues of the common women but are rather there to continue their family legacy in the form of a female. Most Pakistani women are completely convinced that women cannot be in politics because of several reasons: women have no education, time skills to become political leaders.

    Women are not clever, opportunists, bold & quickin making decisions. There is also a conception / perception that women are naturally poor in financial matters. Women have also raised concerns that if we start going in politics who will take care of the children. Going into politics turn women into males as they have to , they do all the dirty things me do & loose their honor as well as their identity as women. As women are supposed these actions go against the socially designated attributes of women in Pkaitni society are child bearing, rearing, love & care for family, homemaking, submissive, passivity & dependence & staying at home which is considered the ideal place for women by the Council for Islamic Ideology.. Politics is considered requires decision making, independence, violence, assertiveness and public these characteristics are considered masculine not acceptable for females. As a result, women are discouraged from politics, not allowed to raise actual issues, not taken seriously & not accepted into politics. Women also believe that going against the patrichaila system will result in punishment from God as they will be disobeying Him. This results in them accepting blame for the crimes of men. In Pakistan, the men cannot simply tolerate any sort of change in the power structures , such changes are either considered unislamic, blasphemous or threatening as women becoming equal to men would result in men losing power over women and having to respect women they can not accept that. Not only there are very few women in politics but the ones that are in politics, are not viewed as role models or “good woman” but are viewed as “prostitutes and bitches who dishonor their family” by most of Pakistani women.

    This essay was written by a fellow student. You may use it as a guide or sample for writing your own paper, but remember to cite it correctly. Don’t submit it as your own as it will be considered plagiarism.

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