What is feminism?

Published: July 6, 2019

KOHAT: Majority of Pakistanis critique feminism for being a Western ideology. Social media has propagated it as a rich woman’s burden as issues — like women’s clothing and whether to wear the dupatta, or if domestic chores are a woman’s job — are debated endlessly. As a society we must understand that feminism is beyond this. It is about equal rights for men and women. This does not mean that women want to be like men. It means that the same rights and status in society are accorded to women as men. We need to stop blindly following a misleading definition of feminism without knowing all the facts and understand that it is not restricted to a specific class, caste, or region. It is about equality. It is true that men and women cannot be the same, but we need to re-evaluate and value both genders for the role they play in society, rather than crediting only men.

We must also focus on the genuine causes feminism highlights, such as issues women face on a daily basis as they commute in public transport, or seek education and inheritance, or are at work. According to a report, 85,000 females have completed their medical education at the expense of the state or privately, but are not part of the medical workforce in Pakistan. According to the UN Population Fund, Pakistan has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in South Asia. These numbers are alarming and need urgent attention, and feminism seeks to do that.

Feminism is not just a Western concept and our own religion enjoins equal rights for men and women. The Prophet (PBUH) was in favour of women’s rights. Before the advent of Islam, baby girls were buried alive. Islam valued their life and gave women the right to take decisions, seek education, fight in battles, work, inherit and own property. Women could not own property in Europe till 1870.

We need to realise the concept of feminism is not wrong or against our values but is being portrayed as such. We can only progress if we admit our shortcomings and work to resolve them.

Israa Aslam

Published in The Express Tribune, July 6th, 2019.

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