Pakistani civil society activists carry placards as the march during a rally to mark International Women's Day in Karachi on March 8, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / ASIF HASSAN
Pakistani civil society activists carry placards as the march during a rally to mark International Women's Day in Karachi on March 8, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / ASIF HASSAN

Patriarchy hamstrings women’s roles in important domestic, social and religious affairs. The pinnacle of patriarchy’s dark side is witnessed in Pakistan, where women are not only victims of harassment but can even be subject to so-called honor killings.

I myself have witnessed a woman being killed in the name of “honor,” while the man involved in that affair was set free. The woman left a one-day-old child behind while the man went on with his life and got married. Meanwhile, Pakistani society observed all this with hypocrisy cruelty.

It is not only in Pakistan that women are considered worthy of punishment and reduced to being advertisement tools for beauty products. However, nearly every day in Pakistan, there are newspaper headlines of honor killings, harassment and battering of females – and not just adult women. Last year reports of six-year-old girl Zainab Ansari‘s rape and brutal murder in Kasur, Punjab province, glutted national media outlets. But similar cases continue that are out of the media’s reach.

Last year the Aurat Foundation, a women’s rights organization based in Islamabad, recorded 138 cases of violence, including the deaths of 51 women and 25 men. Of these, 30 women and 19 men were killed in the name of honor, and 14 women committed suicide over domestic disputes.

According to a Human Rights Watch report last year, violent attacks on transgender and intersex women in Pakistan continued in 2017, with unidentified assailants frequently targeting those involved in activism.

On March 8, International Women’s Day, women from various walks of life clamored against Pakistani society’s hypocrisy in how they are treated. Participants in the so-called Aurat March (women’s march) in Lahore and other cities displayed their grievances on placards and banners, carried not just by females but also males. The core issues are education, child marriage, forced marriage, lack of health facilities, harassment in public places and deprivation of property. But as usual, differences of opinion came to the forefront.

Women’s rights can be divided into two categories, namely the right to respect and economic rights. No sensible person can deny respect to other people. Staring directly at women simply means disrespect for them. The people who got furious over the placards at the Aurat March should understand that in exactly the same way, women get furious when their right to respect is violated.

Economic rights relate to women’s property shares, dowries, entrepreneurship and employment. In most of the rural areas of Pakistan, women are divested from shares of property inherited from their parents, mainly because of illiteracy. This problem can be eradicated by educating them, as can women’s access to jobs, to some degree.

Female entrepreneurship in Pakistan, however, is very low. Women need to escalate their business participation across the country. Business is closely related to leadership. Women, through leadership and entrepreneurship, can battle patriarchy and society’s hypocrisy. It is really matters how women can enhance their leadership in mainstream politics, education and business. Economically and politically stable women can stand against any illegitimate customs imposed by society.

Irfan Khan has written for various media outlets including CGTN, Daily Times, The Nation, Modern Diplomacy,, Eurasia Review, and Times of Israel. He mainly focuses on the Middle East, South Asia, the new emerging world order and human rights.

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