Acknowledging The Appalling Status Of Women Is The First Step To Change Things

Acknowledging The Appalling Status Of Women Is The First Step To Change Things
Aisha Sarwari, coFounder of Women’s Advancement Hub took to Twitter reminding everyone why gender rights matter and why talking about them is essential for a just society.

Women in Pakistan have regressed socially, economically and politically, especially if you look at global and regional averages. To the extent that the report on the commission of the status of women justifies equality of the sexes by arguing scripture and defending the exit of Eve from the heavens.

During the country's history, at every step, the writing of women’s equality into law was resisted by the clergy and their political allies. These included: the right to education, property inheritance, protection from child marriage and marital rape, political activity and protection from honor killings.

An even more urgent problem is the systemic wiping away of women’s individuality. They are almost always inept at an independent life and will be dependent on the men in their family for something critical - be it finances, mobility or permission to access public spaces.

I wish the men who complain about feminists being “too much” can put their behinds in the brutal lives of women from Chilas; Tharparkar; Waziristan; Liari or some place where the politics of domestic housework is unfair. Domestic workers in Pakistan are modern slaves with limited or no access to small capital to crawl out of poverty. Many are in an open prison where they are frequently abused by their “masters” and even killed.

Women are perceived to have “too many rights”; however out of the women who do work professionally in Pakistan, surveys reveal that only 0.8% work in managerial positions. In other words, these women are glorified domestic workers with the same exploitation, but just different scale.

We have made incredible progress in letter since the Family Laws Ordinance of 1962, but not much has changed for the quality of life of women because social discrimination muzzles women more effectively than even acid attacks do. Pakistan ranks 164 out of 167 countries in the 2019-2020 Women, Peace, and Security Index.

Also this latest Human Rights Watch report on Pakistan’s gender challenges may illustrate why.

Before anyone brags about the honor and respect women get in this country, let them know that Pakistan is very hostile towards women who have access to cell phones, or walk home alone at night or even hold a paying job. These are critical steps for human development. Female literacy in Pakistan is shamefully low and women’s educational status is among the lowest in the world.

If you are worth something only for your ability to be good child-bearers, dishwashers, honour-custodians, obedient lambs or bearers of dowry - maybe it’s kind of ok to get a bit angry about the whole situation. But women are not permitted anger.

It annoys me that when this is pointed out, men draw an imaginary see-saw in their head with women on top and them down. It’s not a zero-sum game. But women are accused of being too much simply for making men uncomfortable. Well take your comfort and do with it what oppressors do - turn it into an award ceremony, be a spin doctor, tell feminists to mellow down.

There is always another way to do this: accept that someone else has an experience that is dehumanizing because you want to remain comfortable in your privilege.

Some time back, a man came up to me and said: "I thought I do right by everyone until I heard what you said carefully and realized that in getting women around me do the mental parts of life while I control the big questions of life, I was wrong." He thanked me for sensitizing him to everyday bigotry. To office housework; to division of domestic labor; to leadership and access to finances and to the harshness in the tone of my voice.

I thanked him too: I had my own version of the see-saw - with men always winning against my attempts to get through. I thanked him for being the kind of person who rewired his brain and tossed his version of gender roles. Since that day Pakistani men are now un-give-up-able.

Over-doing my angst about the story of my life and that of solidarity with other women comes only from a wrong already done to us.

Men have two choices: mute the voices that speak up or join the cause.

The writer is the Co-Founder of Women’s Advancement Hub. She is the author of two published books on Feminism and writes for several publications.