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‘Women’s empowerment causing gender imbalance in academic institutions’

By Imtiaz Ali

Karachi: There are many causes of ‘gender imbalance’ in academic institutions ranging from women empowerment to changing values, according to University of Karachi (KU) Department of Sociology Chairman Dr Fateh Mohammed Burfat.

He pointed out that discussions on women’s empowerment, which have been going on for the past 20-30 years, have borne fruit. “We now have 27,000 students at KU and 70 per cent of those are females,” he said.

Burfat said that about 20 or 30 years ago, marriages would take place before the age of 20. When these marriages took place within relatives, the education and occupation of the girl was not a problem. However, he added, nowadays even among traditional families are marrying off their children outside their immediate families, while marital age for girls had increased to 26-27 years.

“Girls who are receiving higher education still have getting a ‘suitable boy’ for marriage as their first aim,” he said. It is because of this reason that a high proportion of unmarried people are increasing rapidly in the country, while finding a suitable boy for girls has become an issue for families, he continued.

According to Burfat, parents think that higher education serves as insurance for girls’ marriage. “Parents however remain concerned after their daughter’s marriage because of the increasing divorce ratio. They consider divorce as a threat, and think that girls should receive higher education and a stable profession to enable her to continue work and support herself in case she is divorced,” he postulated.

He pointed out that another reason why girls desire higher education is that they have fantastic ‘role modelsÂ’, including late Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) chairperson Benazir Bhutto in politics, and former State Bank of Pakistan Governor Shamshad Akhtar. Such examples persuade girls that they can achieve whatever they desire in all walks of life, he emphasised.

He further said that girls are excelling in education because our society is still “restricted”, and girls can operate under certain restrictions. He said that boys engage themselves in other activities but girls lack “social mobility” because of restrictions, hence they focus on education only.

Dr Burfat continued that this lack of restriction on boys partly explains their involvement in crimes and addiction, and added that there are around four million drug addicts in the country, with about 90 to 95 per cent of them being male. Similarly, there are around 5,000 criminals in Karachi jails with the majority being males; female ratio in crimes and addiction would not be more than one percent, he guesstimated.

He also said that a “limited” study carried out by the KU’s sociology department suggests that girls prefer to go to medical colleges, because they offer a higher chance of getting “suitable boys”. Engineering and business schools are also being preferred for identical purpose, he added.

Furthermore, he continued, the impact of material desires translates into men preferring to get married to an educated girl, so that she could help share the domestic financial burden. Dr Burfat asserted that there should be “compulsory service” after graduation from medical school. He added that the government is spending millions of rupees on their education, and a fine should be imposed on those who do not perform compulsory service.

He also said that setting up colleges for boys only or fixing quotas would be discriminatory and against human rights, as females comprise 51 per cent of the country’s population. Talking about higher education, he said that it should be made “limited and costly”. He pointed out that university education is cheaper as compared to schools, adding that he knew many schools which charge Rs2000 per month, whereas KU charges Rs500 per month. Only those students should be allowed to pursue higher educations who have demonstrated the right aptitude, are serious about education and committed towards the development of society.
Source: The News

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