KARACHI: “Women here were better off as their rights were safeguarded in the early years of Pakistan but then things started deteriorating. Still, I think that our future is going to be better,” said writer and activist Hilda Saeed during a panel discussion on ‘Women of Pakistan: striving for a gender-just future’ organised by Uks at a hotel here on Thursday.
She said that earlier after completing their education most women usually thought about working as teachers, nurses, etc. But now there are more career women. Still, while the status of women has improved, the mindset of people needs to change. “Also, earlier, we couldn’t even speak about things such as rape. It was expected to keep such things under wraps but it is now being reported,” she said, adding that there were also some 10 pro-women laws, including the ones pertaining to domestic violence, child marriage, sexual harassment and acid attacks, which awaited implementation. “Still it is an improvement and progress would follow eventually,” she said.
Coming to her own struggle as a woman in Pakistan, Hilda Saeed said that Gen Ziaul Haq’s era proved to be a turning point for her. “There was a zina case against a couple. They ordered 100 lashes for Fahmida, the woman, and Allah Bux, the man, was to be stoned to death for adultery. We didn’t go home or sleep the night before their punishments were to be carried out and called everybody who was anybody to step in to stop it. That was also the formation of the Woman Action Forum,” she said.
‘We couldn’t even speak about things such as rape’
“Eventually, well-known lawyer Khalid Ishaq got the couple acquitted and they are leading a happy and free life today,” she said, adding that how journalists such as Razia Bhatti, Rehana Hakim, Saira Irshad and Zubeida Mustafa also helped the cause by highlighting injustices against women in the media.
A young journalist and co-founder of Bolo Bhi, Farieha Aziz, said that after attending elitist schools she was nudged out of the elitist bubble by her journalist mother and sent to Karachi University, which was like a mini-Pakistan for her. “KU taught me well how to take on the administration. It is thanks to those days that I can take on the government and bureaucracy today,” she said.
Speaking of KU, Farieha said that back in her student days there were so many things which could not become a part of the curriculum such as the former prime minister who was hanged or the MQM. “But then in my second year of university I joined Newsline where there were no taboos as there are in many big media houses which like to play safe.