Women’s rights: Two steps backwards

Published: August 24, 2013

The writer holds a master’s in English literature and is a lecturer. She tweets @YousJavaid

In primitive societies, women have always been denied basic rights, however, the struggle to snatch what is theirs has never ceased. The movement for women’s suffrage started in France around the end of the 18th century and by the 21st century, there is no part of the world where women are barred from voting — except, of course, in Pakistan.

On August 22, women from various areas of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa were not permitted to go out and cast their votes. Reportedly, there were dozens of polling stations for women, where not even a single vote was cast as the elders of a jirga agreed upon not letting women out of their houses, as doing so could damage their ghairat (dignity) and was totally against Pashtun culture.

What is even more shocking is that a few political parties even supported the decision of the jirga.

It is totally beyond my comprehension to decide which of the two forces is against the basic rights of women. Islam gives equal rights to women in such matters and so does democracy. So, where does the problem lie?

Does it lie in the wrong interpretation of religion? Or in the misuse of laws? Or in culture?

If it is the latter, why does our culture feel threatened if women vote?

By any parameters of reason and logic, it cannot be determined that voting is of any harm to our culture or a blemish on the dignity of the family. If the objection is on moral grounds, we are fully aware that there are many other things happening openly in our society whose immorality is well established. Brothels to secret bars, and all sorts of liberty with things that are strictly against moral codes for almost all societies, are not issues for men. When men harass women at home and at the workplace, it never becomes a matter of honour. Also, when the same men stay back at home and let their women go out to earn for the family and be exploited in many ways, there is no issue of cultural codes. But when it comes to the basic rights of voting or education or even having an opinion of their own, their ghairat is seriously damaged?

When it comes to essays and debates, it’s very easy to chant that women are an equal and important part of society; they should be given respect and freedom and so on. However, this is easier said than done. Unfortunately, when the time comes, the same culture which we take pride in, the same families which we serve all our lives, the same elders we make every effort to please and comfort, stand in the way of women.

Let’s not be hypocrites. When we compare our country with the rest of the world in matters related to economy, technology and other facilities, we should also compare it in terms of basic human rights.

When others enjoy women’s suffrage, it should not turn into ‘women’s suffer-age’ in our country.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 25th, 2013.

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Reader Comments (10)

  • Rameez
    Aug 25, 2013 - 12:12AM

    I don’t know why ET allows anyone to publish and promote their articles.There are some major flaws or should I say blunders made by the author.
    1.there is no part of the world where women were barred from voting – except, of course, Pakistan.
    Wrong.Women are not barred from voting in Pakistan.The incident that happened in that particular area of KPK is an isolated issue.You cannot simply generalize a single matter and then apply it to every corner of this state(Pakistan).Besides,the courts in Pakistan have taken notice of this issue and have ordered re-polling in areas where women were not allowed to vote.Arrest orders have also been given against those jirga leaders who barred women from voting.I don’t know what is wrong with you(author) when the concerned authorities are taking appropriate steps to deal with this matter.Further more,in order to correct your knowledge.There are countries in this world that actually ban women from voting.They are (Vatican,KSA and UAE).Poorly researched article I must say.
    2.Does it lie in the wrong interpretation of religion? Or in the misuse of laws? Or in culture?
    None.They stopped women from voting because of security reasons.You know how the security situation is in KPK. Although , I must admit that their approach to this matter was not right.
    the same elders for whom we make every effort to please and comfort, stand in the way of women.
    Another lie.They are highly protective of their women.Majority of the elders are in the favor of advancing their womenfolk.Your generalization is invalid.
    When we compare our country with the rest of the world in matters related to economy, technology and other facilities, we should also compare it in terms of basic human rights.
    When for the others it is women’s suffrage, it should not be in any way “Women’s Suffer-age” in our country.
    No one is trampling your or any woman’s right.The concerned authorities,just as I said earlier are sorting out this issue.I don’t why some women just want to make a mountain out of a molehill.

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  • x
    Aug 25, 2013 - 12:30AM

    Another blog in op-ed section. ET please get more writers.

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  • Parvez
    Aug 25, 2013 - 12:49AM

    This has appeared in the blog section and I have already commented there, but I think this subject is important enough to be written about in as may places and translated into Urdu as well. Suggest ET install a button which translates stuff like this into Urdu so that it could be spread to a much larger audience. On this forum its almost like preaching to the choir.

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  • Toba Alu
    Aug 25, 2013 - 4:57AM

    @Rameez:
    Obviously you don’t know your own country, city boy! Self proclaimed intellectuals like you sweep everything under the carpet. Don’t belittle others when they make a minor mistake. The core of the story is spot-on.

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  • Mujahid Torwali
    Aug 25, 2013 - 9:54AM

    @Rameez: Why are you getting angry? Yes the writer is cent percent right that the women barred in Pakistan for casting their votes. But if the people like you still dont think that everything is fine so it will be true that there are will educated Taliban in Pakistan, Media is free if you wanna write for any newspaper then go ahead and do that, but if you cant do this and criticize other so it will be wrong

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  • ahmed41
    Aug 25, 2013 - 10:20AM

    @Parvez:
    ‘”—-and translated into Urdu as well.
    Suggest ET install a button which translates stuff like this into Urdu so that it could be spread to a much larger audience.
    On this forum its almost like preaching to the choir.–”

    I agree. It is preaching to the choir .

    Be that as it may, one shudders at a *press a button translations *. Lets have sober,well written translations in all the available languages . Urdu, Sindhi,Punjabi, Pashtu …..

    But , what about awareness programmes for those millions who do not read and write Urdu or any other regional language ?

    You know, ideally the electronic media , like the television , was/is expected to do this nation-building job of enhancing awareness among those who can not read and write , but are able to watch TV rogrammes.

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  • Toticalling
    Aug 25, 2013 - 11:17AM

    Well written Ms Javaid. Women are treated like cattle in many parts of this planet and Pakistan is a shining example. I totally disagree with Rameez that women were barred because of security reasons. Strange logic. So men can take the risk and women can’t? It is like saying small children need protection because they are unaware of the dangers. But women are human beings and imprisoning them inside four walled rooms is a crime and shameful.
    But then the author says: “Islam gives equal rights to women in such matters and so does democracy.”
    I beg to differ from the author on that. All the abrahemic religions give few rights to women. What we should say is that the rights of women need to be reinterpreted. Obviously nobody has the guts to admit that. Beating about the drum of equal rights in faith is disturbing.

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  • Uza Syed
    Aug 25, 2013 - 2:01PM

    @Rameez: Why don’t you just let that be to the best judgement of the folks at Express Tribune who should or may not be published. Doesn’t it ever occur to you that debating issues is much much better than denial? Of all the people, you should be the last yelling about this, imagine what would you be doing with all this anger which forces you to attack a well thought and balanced article, thank ET for providing you an outlet. I’m wondering, what are you so bugged about to read here? That the author dares to show mirror image of our society or that what we see in this mirror is rather ugly and hurts our fake sense of all is well. You sure would get the messenger instead of pondering over the bad message, won’t you? And, let me assure you buddy, you represent most of us who are victims of the chronic ailment they call ‘denial’——–poor us the residents of a world where we have such a highly developed sense of denial, and so selective about the reality that we don’t even know what the truth is anymore.

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  • reality
    Aug 25, 2013 - 2:23PM

    @Rameez come out from personal biases…..and do some research…in UAE both women and men can vote, in KSA both women and men have no rite to vote because if u have been to Saudi Arabia u would not have comment like that,,,,,in Vatican women and men dont vote its the cardinal they vote…so kindly come up with proper research…..

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  • Parvez
    Aug 26, 2013 - 12:20AM

    @ahmed41: Excellent point made………..awareness must be spread by any means.

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