As we commemorate International Women’s Day, it is useful to see how far women have come in their struggle for rights. An honest appraisal would probably conclude that Pakistani women just haven’t been able to get past the iron-clad barricades that would otherwise enable them to be recognised as equal members of society. The fault of course is not theirs.
That women are discriminated against in the country is not news as study after study has corroborated existing gender inequalities in the country. The structural violence they face is not only excruciating, adding to their anxieties, but also stops many from becoming active members of society. While women’s empowerment has become a USP for many institutions — private to governmental — ground realities prove that nothing much is being done to uplift the female populace. But for how long will the country and its leadership hide away from the marginalisation faced by almost half of the population? For how long will men be content with women trailing behind them in every sphere of activity? Sure, there have been exceptions and these are just too few and far between.
Women fare far worse than their male counterparts on most aspects, from nutritional levels to the workplace. Many women in conservative areas are not even allowed to cast votes despite explicit recognition of this right in the Constitution.
The discourse on gender discrimination, however, has gained momentum in the recent past that has made women unite for their cause. And the Aurat March that will be held in cities of Pakistan today is proof that Pakistani women are mobilising to highlight the issues they face and are calling for economic, reproductive and environmental justice.
Systematic oppression can only be challenged when men — especially those occupying the power corridors — stand with women. It is time everybody did.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 8th, 2018.