Home Editorial Editorial: Gender Injustice

Editorial: Gender Injustice

Pakistan continues to lag behind the world in gender parity, sidelining over half its population from active participation in societal, economic development

by Editorial

File photo. Delil Souleiman—AFP

Despite marginal improvements over the years, Pakistan continues to rank low on the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report, with the 2023 edition placing it 142 out of 146 countries. The country similarly ranks 95 out of 146 in women’s political empowerment, as only a handful of women occupy senior, managerial, policy- and decision-making posts. According to the report, it would take 149 years for Pakistan to achieve gender parity at its current rate of progress. This is tragic, but hardly surprising. Women in Pakistan face deeply entrenched patriarchy, systemic gender discrimination, socioeconomic disparity, and hidebound cultural norms. Despite numbering over half the national population, women lack proper representation, hampering efforts to highlight and correct their concerns, including domestic violence, forced marriage, “honor” killings, acid attacks, and sexual violence.

A systemic review of the gender gap, coupled with qualitative interviews, has found it stems from the status of a woman in society; gender inequality in health; gender inequality in education; gender inequality in employment; gender-biased social norms and cultural practices; and micro- and macro-level recommendations. Societal norms, in particular, often view women as sexual objects lacking in any self-identity unless married. This leaves women largely restricted to household and child-rearing responsibilities, suppressing their self-expression. By contrast, men are viewed as dominant figures in women’s lives with decision-making authority arising from their consideration as financial providers and source of protection.

Pakistan’s patriarchal society thus forces women into a submissive role, ignoring their rights and sidelining their personal identity to prop up the men in their lives. Referring to 9 of 20 studies conducted for a peer-reviewed journal, a recent report found that women were barred from taking independent decisions, with unmarried women answering to their fathers, followed by married women answering first to their husbands and then their sons. Three of these studies found women were barred from participating in elections or had very limited political participation.

The gender gap is also bad for the national economy. Women’s status in society leaves them largely restricted to home-care responsibilities, hampering their growth and denying them employment opportunities. Women who manage to overcome societal barriers and enter the workplace find their own challenges, often subject to harassment that discourages their personal growth. This cannot continue. Pakistan recently celebrated the election of its first woman chief minister; such accolades ring hollow when over three decades after electing a woman prime minister, the country continues to sideline a vast majority of its women.

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