Gender bias: The plight of women in Pakistan

Published: March 15, 2015
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Speakers discuss discrimination against women especially in the poorer classes. STOCK IMAGE

Speakers discuss discrimination against women especially in the poorer classes. STOCK IMAGE

SUKKUR: Whether she is the prime minister, a lawyer or a doctor, a woman is never treated as an equal among men, which is proof of the lack of awareness in our society, said Sindh University (SU), Jamshoro, Prof Dr Irfana Mallah. She was speaking at a conference, titled ‘Women economic empowerment’, organised by the Hawa Foundation, in collaboration with the Sindh government’s social welfare department and the Engro Foundation in Ghotki.

Lamenting the plight of women in the country, Dr Mallah said that though many influential landlords and tribal chiefs were educated in reputed foreign institutions such as Oxford, they took pride in organising jirgas for karo-kari and bartered women for murders. She was of the belief that education had nothing to do with such practices and customs; rather, it was the mindset that needed to be changed.

A large number of women are working in various industries, said Dr Mallah, adding that the Punjab government had even enhanced the women’s job quota from five per cent to 15 per cent. In Sindh, however, the job quota for women is still five per cent, she decried. This is despite the fact that women make up 41 per cent of the total population. Dr Mallah was of the view that extremism was barring women’s way to independence and needed to be countered immediately.

Another SU professor, Amar Sindhu, recounted that women in rural areas used to walk long distances to fetch water where they would share their problems with their peers. In this age, however, water connections are present in every house and thus women have been deprived of the mobility of space, she said. “I am not against these facilities, but I am against depriving a woman of women-friendly spaces,” she added.

Prof Dr Humaira Ashfaq of the International Islamic University Islamabad said it was ironic that women in the middle and labour classes were not even allowed to spend their earnings independently.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 16th, 2015.

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