WOMEN SUFFER UNDER PAK PATRIARCHY STUCK ON 'HONOUR'

1/11/2020


Allabaksh
Saudi Arabia last week extradited model Qandil Baloch's brother accused of having murdered her. But not all brothers are so 'unlucky' and by implication, not all sisters they kill to "save family honour" are so 'lucky'.
Family and its 'honour' dominate Pakistan's social discourse and impact politics, economics - everything. Even a tiff at home is enough. "Man kills sister in Lahore after argument," ran a newspaper headline last week.
Violence against women has been on the rise in this country of over 200 million people. It ranks sixth on the list of the world's most dangerous countries for women.
According to German radio Deutsche Welle (October 9, 2019) quoting statistics collected by White Ribbon Pakistan, an NGO working for women's rights, 4,734 women faced sexual violence between 2004 and 2016. Over 15,000 cases of honor crimes were registered. There were more than 1,800 cases of domestic violence and over 5,500 kidnappings of women during this period.
Pakistani media have compiled more than 51,241 cases of violence against women were reported between January 2011 and June 2017. Conviction rates, meanwhile, remain low, with the accused in just 2.5% of all reported cases ending up being convicted by the courts.
After the chief justice of Pakistan announced that 1,000 courts would be set up to deal with the cases of violence against women, there is no follow-up in a system that is heavily patriarchal.
Pakistani women's rights activists like Mukhtaran Mai say it's a systemic problem. Mai, gang-raped in 2004 and still fighting for full justice, says: "Women police stations and other facilities are set up in cities while the majority of the violence cases take place in villages."
She is right. "In rural areas, feudal landlords call the shots; the administration and police are subservient to these feudal chieftains who view women as commodities. So how can justice be delivered in such cases?"
Farzana Bari, another prominent women's rights activist, believes the patriarchal attitudes prevalent in Pakistani society are responsible for the problem. "No government has ever tried to put an end to this mindset," she said.
There are more statistics to examine. Pakistan’s abysmal female labour force participation rate, for one. According to World Bank statistics for 2019, only 24 per cent of Pakistani women above the age of 15 are actively involved in the labour force. In contrast, the same statistic for men in Pakistan is 81pc.
There are only 15 countries in the world that have a lower female labour force participation rate than Pakistan. This is certainly one important mechanism that results in Pakistani women being absent from public spaces.
The deeper underlying causes of this phenomenon are closely related to cultural norms that are not challenged adequately. According to the World Values Survey, 74.6pc of Pakistanis believe that men should have more right to a job than women; 72pc believe that men make better political leaders than women; and 51pc believe that university education is more important for boys than it is for girls.
While women bear the brunt of these norms in their daily lives and accept them, it is often hard to quantify their real cost to our society. One basic and crude measure is to look at the estimated impact on the economy. This is admittedly an imperfect measure, but it does show the scale of the problem.
A recent study by the IMF estimated that Pakistan can increase its GDP by 30pc by closing the gender gap. For a developing country that is currently growing at around 3pc, this number is huge. The rationale behind gender empowerment is fundamentally ethical. But it also makes a lot of economic sense.