By Maryam Ali
“I hesitated a long time before writing a book on woman,” De Beauvoir begins. “The subject is irritating, especially for women; and it is not new. Enough ink has flowed over the quarrel about feminism; it is now almost over: let’s not talk about it anymore.” Women empowerment is no more a novel idea or vague concept. Rather it is a vogue term used in social, economic and political manifestos of all political and economic institutions. Much has been written against male chauvinism and the forces of male chauvinistic society exploiting women in one or the other way but every time it is condemned in the name of liberalism and westernisation. Every time words are changed but mind sets remain same.
It has been recognised on international level that no nation can grow and develop without active participation of women. Women have always been considered as a sensitive gender but the question is whether we treat this sensitive gender with the sensitivity it deserves? We limit ourselves declaring women as sensitive and forget what it actually means. Does it only mean to dominate and debar women from their rights? Does this mean to adopt aggressive and violent attitude towards them? Does this mean to deprive them from their rights in social, economic and political spheres? Undoubtedly, no. this doesn’t preserve women’s sensitivity.
It’s not the question to be raised only in Pakistan, the whole world developed, developing or underdeveloped, all are facing same dilemma. Not only African women lack voice in decision making and gender issues but the women in developed countries like Canada are also taking steps to reduce wage inequality, violence against women especially indigenous women. Not only influential women but men are also fighting for the rights of women because they know that there are many things going on that are unjust and cruel in the name of religion, social or cultural norms.
Identifying as a feminist may be more and more commonplace if you’re a millennial or Taylor Swift, but it’s still pretty rare to see politicians describe themselves thus. Canada’s newly elected Prime Minister 43-year-old Justin Trudeau, doesn’t seem to have that problem. In an interview, co-sponsored by the Toronto Star, which aired on Monday night before the election (Oct. 18), Trudeau was asked by journalist Francine Pelletier if he would describe himself as a feminist. “Yes. Yes, I am a feminist,” said Trudeau. “I’m proud to be a feminist.” He went on to tell Pelletier that his mother raised him to be that way, and that his father, the popular two-time former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, “was a different generation, but he raised me to respect and defend everyone’s rights, and I deeply grounded my own identity in that.”
Ours is basically an ignorant society. We feel insult in accepting the real face of male dominant society where importance is given to men over women. We have not yet come out of the basic question. Should girls be given right to education, healthcare and good nourishment etc? I remember a TV programme, “Meena k Sath” focusing not only right of education to girls but it highlighted the discriminatory behaviour of people regarding food given to the girls at home. We still have to educate people that baby girls of today are mothers of next day. If they are not brought up well, how can they take the responsibility of upbringing next generations. Napoleon Bonaparte said ,”Give me good mothers and I shall give you a great nation!”
The most important issue; are women free from stress of life? Are they not contributing in economical terms? A woman is found busy in domestic chores; working women are busy in doing their jobs along with domestic duties but their rights to life are not watched carefully. Several studies have shown that excluding women’s input into development by inhibiting their involvement in education, leadership, finance and social improvement has a negative impact on development (Lucas, 2001; Okojie, 1996). Friedan’s 1963 investigation into “the problem that has no name” — that is, the unrepentant unhappiness she found among housewives — is one of the most influential books of the 20th century, and is generally credited with being the catalyst for the rise of second-wave feminism in the United States.
It is evident that the role of gender is determined on social level, therefore there is a need to transform the behaviour of the society towards women role and empowerment. There is much hue and cry over the women protection bill passed by Punjab Assembly to save women from cruelties of domestic violence, acid attack, rape, stalking, cyber crimes and psychological harassment. The level of uproar against this bill is highly alarming. Religious parties that never spoke for the protection of women’ rights are criticising this bill on the plea that it will destroy our social family system. The purpose is only to gain political mileage and assert so-called social clout.
We should wear off the mask of double standards and hypocrisy and realise that we are not to dominate each other but to care and respect each other with the dauntless objective of progress and eternity. If we focus on this point that by advocating empowerment of women, government is not giving undue favour to women but it’s compulsion of time and this era we are living in, to empower the women who constitute more than fifty percent of Pakistani population. Time and circumstances have forced us to do this. If we ignore the fifty percent population of Pakistan how can this nation grow throwing back half of the population? We should accept this change. It is the straight path to progress instead of groping into a maze and ending from where we began.
We can take women protection bill other way round too. It may also serve as a preventive measure to check crimes against women. For example, we don’t kill a person because it is instilled in our minds that it is not only forbidden in Islam but it is also a crime. The people who commit this crime knowing its repercussions, don’t deserve any mercy. Likewise, it has to be established in our minds that any crime against women physical or mental is punishable. It will surely strengthen and secure women.
Let’s delve deep into our hearts and feel no shame in accepting this fact that a great deal of wrong has been done to ‘Hava’s Baiti’ in the name of honour, religion and culture. Hiding or misinterpreting this fact is of no help anymore. If we are unable to do anything, we should not create hurdles for those who want to do something good. In fact, Islam is the only religion that elevates the status of women in all relations whether wife, mother, daughter or sister and demands of non-violent attitude towards women. So whenever the government speaks of women rights, the opposing parties may criticise it for the sake of better amendments but there is no logic demanding its abolition or condemning it to gain political leverage.