Senator Sherry Rehman has aptly reminded us that women in our Southeast Asian culture are still seen as subordinates to men. On the political front, this manifests as women being given roles as state ministers, who she claims have no power. Although women may be better suited than male counterparts in occupying certain positions, including in parliament, they are automatically downplayed as candidates merely due to their sex. The need to recognise the potential of Pakistani women at the launch of the digital story entitled, “Pakistani Women, Past and Present” on World Democracy Day is realised, recalling the innumerable talents showcased by Pakistani women throughout history in politics, humanities, and education. It is time for the state and for religious entities to support women’s progress and access to the same opportunities as men, rather than quashing their ambitions.
In every arena, women have been marginalised, whether in the public sphere by male colleagues and classmates or in the private sphere by their own husbands, brothers, fathers, and in-laws. Yet, records have shown that when women are passed the baton, they charge to the finish line, completing whatever task efficiently and with long-lasting success. For example, statistically, when women participate more in the economy of a country, its GDP potential rises.
The plight to end sexism must begin at home. There is nothing demeaning about boys learning the same household responsibilities as girls or being raised to develop the same emotional sensitivities as them. Other trends on the practical front must also change, such as granting legal power to women. It would be approximated that millions of women have certain rights taken away from them when they sign their nikahnamas; namely, the clauses having to do with a wife’s right to apply for divorce, which are often not even dignified with responses and thoughtlessly crossed off. This is unjust especially because some religious communities do not recognise a woman’s Islamic ‘alternative’ to divorce: khula. Until such subtleties are brought into focus, women will be powerless. Furthermore, only when women are appraised as being capable for authoritative parliamentary positions will they be able to help the overall situation for the better.