Different Strands Of ‘Misunderstood’ Feminism In Pakistan
Feminism is one of the most frowned upon concepts among Pakistani masses. Since 2018, “Aurat March” has been one of the most controversial annual events, with the media playing a particularly sinister role by showing it in an extremely negative light. Last year too, the placard boldly declaring “my body, my decision” was circulating widely on social media and receiving huge criticism. There is widespread unawareness and hence misunderstanding with regard to the values that feminism promotes.
Feminism simply stands for equality between genders in society. It stands for women to have the right to make decisions about their education, career and personal matters themselves. This idea stands for empowering women in Pakistani society, who are by and large deprived of their basic right to make their own decisions. The idea of equality opposes the unquestioned male hegemony in all important respects in a society. Male-dominant societies by definition result in structural imbalances and inequality, with the result that such a society is unable to utilise the full potential of its resources, either for economic growth or in terms of strong family structures.
There are three mainstream branches of feminism. These are the liberal, the mainstream feminist (also called reformist) and the radical feminist schools. In general, Pakistani liberal women expect gender equality for education and career opportunities, mutual respect and acceptance in relationships, equal justice in society, and a commitment from the government to promote gender equality and to bring about a change in society’s perception. The most usual demands of mainstream feminists are decision authority for the choice of marriage partner; stopping child marriage; decision authority for divorce; a woman’s right to decide (with mutual understanding between her partner and herself) how many children she will bear; justified inheritance of assets; and elimination of domestic abuse etc.
All of these demands are well within the ethical values of a Muslim society. However, there is a large number of conservative groups in Pakistan, who see these demands as nothing more than a challenge to their ownership over the females of their families. Pakistani society has a general perception that feminist women do not have any ethics and that they are normally vulgar, loud, argumentative, easily offended, sexually immoral and creators of controversial situations for innocent men in society.
In my opinion, this extreme image of feminist women in Pakistan has been created by the radical international feminism web link, which believes that men are equal to nothing. These radicalised feminists have mentalities similar to the feudalistic mentality of people in our society. They are representing an image in international media, which is not in alignment with justice and humanity. Radical feminist females see men’s role in society as insignificant and believe in a reordering of society in which male superiority is fully eliminated to reform society.
In my personal opinion, some of our feminists are unconsciously inspired by this radical idea. They are rude and consider themselves superior to the other gender and treat their male subordinates in an inferior manner, whereas mainstream feminism advocates the equality of both genders for a balanced structure of society. We need to promote the message of liberal and mainstream feminism for people’s understanding. On the level of the government, we need to work on awareness programs and spread public messages that a healthy, strong mother gives rise to a stable household and progressing nation. A healthy and strong mother, coupled with education, modern skill sets with which she can earn money if she has to, and an understanding of the outside world is the most well-suited person to make good decisions for her children.
There are a lot of incidents in which women either get divorced or widowed at a young age and then have to bear the responsibility of their children. It is evident that our society and government need to take strong actions to ensure that our daughters are educated, who can then become strong mothers capable of raising children if they have to, as well as taking good and firm decisions irrespective of their partners’ presence.
Progressing nations of the world have balanced societies, where the full potential of each citizen is fully utilised in his/her own capacity. Government agencies and religious groups in Pakistan need to take up the challenge of changing Pakistani society’s mindset regarding feminism. The role of religious groups is especially important in conveying to the masses the message that Pakistani women should complete their education before getting married and not enter child marriages.