Out of the current population of 225.5 million, approximately 51% of it are men, 48.76% are women, and 0.24 percent are transgender. From a statistical perspective, the difference between the ratio of men to women is not significant; however, when the subjectivities of what it means to be a woman in Pakistan are considered, disparities between the two genders are stark.
The Thomas Reuters foundation ranked Pakistan number six among the world’s most dangerous countries for women, revealing how sexual abuse, domestic abuse, acid attacks, and honor killings have shaped Pakistani society for centuries. Often, girls as young as 14 are compelled to marry and are victims of domestic and sexual violence. Annually, approximately 5000 women are killed by domestic violence, and thousands more suffer life-threatening injuries, disfigurement, and disabilities as a result of oppression.
In this article, we examine why discrimination and violence disproportionately affect women and how future governments must renew their interest in promoting educational opportunities for women. In addition, it will explore how institutionalized patriarchy in Pakistan has compromised its justice system, allowing rife corruption to allow its men to walk free after committing heinous crimes.
The sheer levels of gender inequality have been a subject of discussion among activists for decades. There are many reasons why Pakistan has a violent and male-dominated society. Two explanations are common and plausible at a systemic level. In Pakistan, education for women has been recognized as a right since 1976, but there is still a substantial gender gap in education. In 2015, Pakistan was named one of the world’s worst-performing education countries at the Oslo summit. As Imran Khan’s manifesto revealed in 2018, 32% of primary school girls were not enrolled in school, which is significantly higher than 21% of boys who were not enrolled.
In order to shift this narrative, governments should be scrutinized and held more accountable by implementing widespread education. In addition to providing women with access to external income and opportunities, enforceable rights to education will also help them gain more independence and understanding of their rights.
There is a need for governments to reassess their redress mechanisms. Despite promising to deliver on numerous international commitments to gender equality and women’s human rights, such as the Universal Declaration for Human Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Sustainable Development Goals, Pakistan is still ranked among the lowest in the world when it comes to gender equality.
While governments may present themselves as supportive of women’s rights, in reality they fail to uphold and reform the same institutions that do not provide justice to women internally. Imran Khan has done little to alter the social norms and beliefs that lead to gender discrimination, and women continue to be denied basic rights such as health care, representation, and employment.
Civil society and the government must work together to create a society that is tolerant of women, but that can only be accomplished if commitments to preventing violence, providing equal access to public goods, social security, and access to justice are enforced.