Education is perhaps the main source of human intellectual development and a critical factor pertaining to standard of living. Education here refers to all instructions received by a child, whether at home, playground, or school. Continuous increase in population and declining assets in public education give birth to a serious dilemma for developing countries. Like most of rest of the developing world, Pakistan is known to be a male dominated country and ranks as the seventh most populous of the world. The sex ratio is 105.7 men to every 100 women, with an overall literacy rate of only 45%; 56.5 percent for males and 32.6 percent for females in 1998 (Jehan, 2000). For centuries women have been battling for equality, yet the society continues to shape the stereotypical view of women and is responsible for the lower status of women. This paper aims to explore the factors obstructing Pakistani women, specifically in rural areas where they cannot acquire education.
The consequences they face due to lack of academic opportunities are also discussed alongside an elaborate analysis pertaining to various sociological concepts introduced in the course. This is an ongoing cultural and political issue, which reflects the corrupt government and extreme subjective interpretations of the religious doctrines. The status of Pakistani women reflects the complex interplay of many factors such as social, cultural, and religious views. In addition, the gender biases, geographical regions, and social classes pose several difficulties for Pakistani women. Lack of education quite obviously hinders their practicality in the workforce along with increased unawareness about health and failure to access legal rights for mistreatment from the male dominating society.
The social and cultural perspective of Pakistani society is primarily patriarchal. At a very early stage men and women are divided into two separate worlds, this becomes a way of life. For women home is defined as being the lawfully ideological space whereas, the men dominate the world outside the home. This false ideological discrimination between inside and outside worlds is supported by the notion of honor and the tradition of purdah (veil, the seclusion of women from the sight of men or strangers) in Pakistan (Country Briefing Paper, 2000). The male honor is associated with the women’s sexual behaviour, the family’s honor hold great emphasis on women’s sexuality. Although the women are not prohibited from working, at the same time they are supposed to firmly follow the rules of morality.
They may feel a role strain, to be a “good” daughter or wife or to have the right to do a job they wish to do. Status is defined by your social location, and women in general face everyday prejudice because of their gender. Pakistan, being a developing country, has a lower overall status in the world. Pakistani women have many statuses; one being a “Pakistani”, this however is an achieved or ascribed social position. Meaning it can be attained either by taking birth in the country, or by applying to become a citizen. Being Pakistani is not her only social position, when she’s born; she’s a daughter (ascribed status), when she gets married; she’s a wife (achieved status), and then when she has children she’s a mother (achieved status). The status in terms of just occupying a position; the 3 different statues that the Pakistani women achieve are daughter, wife, and mother. She is not known for anything other than that.
Rarely are they known for ‘working women’, or any kind of job positions. The culture looks at them as nothing more, nor are they supposed to have any other status. Status in terms of prestige or honour; for centuries women have been fighting for equality, equal rights, honour, and respect; despite all of that, it is still an ongoing struggle. Pakistani women have an ascribed lower status, this means that women don’t earn or work towards being a lower status; they are given it by birth. Most Pakistani families yearn for a son, so he could handle the family business, but on receiving a daughter, they are ashamed. Hence this starts her being worthless in the eyes of her parents. As she grows older, the neighbours start to look at her that way, and so forth. Eventually the society looks at her that way and therefore, it becomes a norm, or part of an ideology.
A Pakistani women’s life particularly in rural areas is a journey of subordination. As a woman is growing up she must listen to her father who decides whether she obtains education and who she would marry. After marriage her husband and in-laws are the decision makers on her behalf, who mainly decide how many children she would have and whether she is allowed to work outside the household. In a woman’s senior years her sons decide the fate for the rest of her remaining life. This is the norm in Pakistan; the behavioral expectations of women are to listen to the males that dominate their lives. Furthermore the entire society acts as an oppressor imposing stereotypical roles upon them. As such, daughter, wife, mother: in all three of these roles, the woman is expected to be sexually ‘pure’, that is, not to commit any acts of adultery. In all three, she must protect her family’s honor by learning conventional general labor skills, exquisite manners, and modest dressing.
Women are part of a loop: this loop starts from being a daughter, being a wife, and finally a mother; it ends in the mother giving birth to another daughter who must now follow her mother’s footsteps and live a life reminiscent to that of her mother. This social structure reflects the roles of women in a shocking new light, a light that barely, if not at all, reaches the west. The daughter’s role: starts when she is born into the family. Her role in her family is to clean the house, take care of the chorus alongside her mother, serve food, and if she’s lucky, go to school in a very unhygienic, little populated school. She is to get married at a very early age and this often results in her not finishing her education. Her father decides whom she should marry; this is a process with both cultural and religious significance. According to Islam, it is already written to whom you will marry. By the father being the person who decides, that gives him the “higher authority” or “higher status” as the daughter must be handed over by a wali (the present caretaker, either her oldest brother or father).
The role of the wife: in most sense the role of the wife is very similar to that of the daughter; she is supposed to keep the honour of the husband by keeping quiet, following his lead, and implicitly being a slave. The role of mother: this is when the daughter learns to take all the cultural guidelines and the norms and apply it on her children. Thus the cycle starts all over again. In order for this cycle to break the women need to view their roles in perceptive of the bigger picture. They need to realize that they have voices and that they can change their faith. Though this does not mean going against their religion, but to fight for their rights in a politically corrupted governing system. Acquiring academic and career planning resources is definitely a constructive and logical start to absolving them from this loop. Conversely, the political and cultural infrastructure most definitely tries to thwart these efforts.
The implications of these cultural requirements and lack of education for women’s economic activities are catastrophic. The female labour force participation is known to be the second lowest for Pakistan in the world (Jehan, 2000). Their high contribution in agriculture and the informal sector of work tends to go unrecorded by the statistics. However, in the poorest regions, some opportunities occur for women to work outside areas for domestic services such as sweepers, construction workers, and hired labourers. Women are also restricted to several industries such as textiles, food and beverages and pharmaceuticals. This norm guides the social behavior of Pakistani women, where they cannot acquire high paid jobs and limits women to jobs that are lowest paid and require less mobility.
These gender-defined roles vary from the geographical region in which they reside, where some areas are stricter. The main concern is the lack of education among the rural areas limiting their working capabilities. The total number of females with less than primary education is 18% (Ibraz, 1993). The situation is better in urban areas where women have overcome some of the traditional restrictions due to educational facilities. Another factor that restricts Pakistani females from acquiring higher level of education is the traditional rule of marrying them at an early age. The average age of marriage is stated at 17 years for females (Ibraz, 1993). After marriage the beliefs of the husband interfere; resulting in his social behavior of making his wife take care of the household and his family rather than continuing with further education or working outside the household. Cultural ideas such as protecting the family’s honor result in women barely communicating with men outside their family.
If any communication is necessary, they adjust their religious headgear to make sure that proper protocol is followed and communicate only with minimal eye contact and enthusiasm. Another cultural idea such as honor killings also encourages males to warn females of the consequences of not following the norms and of course, encourage them even more to carry out an execution if the woman is in fact found guilty. Also, in rural areas, a common cultural idea is that education encourages women to rebel against their respective families. This furthermore advocates the practice of not wasting money sending girls to school. Social identity: women who are brave and resourceful enough to leave their families are marked as ‘heathen’ or ‘witchy’. Other females in the neighbourhood are forbidden to socialize with them.
Therefore, a common tool to dominate women who do rebel is to take away all social identity from them or in worse cases, demeaning their social identity through media propagandas and common word of mouth. This is a very potent technique; it makes other women (who are in sync with ‘norms’ ) disrespect and look down on those that actually stood up to the discriminating societal structure. The male dominating ideology, therefore, persists. The health indicators of Pakistani women are among the worst in the world. Pakistan is known to be one of the few countries where the life expectancy of males exceeds the females. One in every 38 women die due to pregnancy related complications (Annual Report, 2009).
The health of the Pakistani women was never considered a priority because woman as a gender are not culturally, traditionally, or religiously given equal status in the society. The health system relies on this gender inequality and is hesitant to adopt policies to help improve women’s health. Lack of awareness among the female population allows them to accept the mistreatment from the system. They are more likely to approach different methods of treatments themselves. More than 80% women are delivered at home in the presence of unskilled birth attendants (Annual Report, 2009). Social and domestic control over women’s sexuality, their economic dependence on men, and restrictions on their mobility establish the health services provided to males and females.
Furthermore, honour killings, rape, and illegal trafficking of women are prevalent across much of the country. Women in Pakistan are seen as a representative of the men’s honour to whom they belong; they are responsible for guarding their virginity and chastity. If a woman is superficially having an illicit sexual relationship, she degrades the family honor and looses the right to life (Amnesty International, 1999). In response the man publicly reveals his power to safeguard his honour by killing the women that have damaged it, these acts are done openly. Brutal punishments are reported for bringing food late, for answering back, and even for undertaking forbidden family visits. Extreme measures such as honour killings take place for several matters. Conveying the desire to choose a spouse and marrying a partner of their own choice is an act of disobedience since most marriages are supposed to be arranged by fathers. Divorce is seen as a public rebelliousness and women must be punished for restoring male honour. Rape among the Pakistani women is seen as a highly shameful event and thus rape victims are also executed.
The Government of Pakistan has failed to take any measures against the honour killings (Amnesty International, 1999). The political institution is flawed; the law and government that are supposed to protect their people from harm’s way; institutionalized corruption. To give women a lower status and view them as unequal is prejudice. It is institutionalized for a Pakistani woman to follow the authority of the man, since he is superior to. It is a practice to look down upon women in Pakistan as it became a norm. An example of such injustice is a story of rape victim named Shazia Khalid. She was a medical doctor, who got married and was offered a job by a government run facility. Her husband worked outside the country, she was staying at the facility that was secured by the members of the military. She was repeatedly raped overnight and then silenced by the military as they would not allow the police to investigate.
To avoid embarrassment of the military, General Musharraf, the president of Pakistan, declared the rapist innocent. They further attacked Shazia by suggesting she was a prostitute. At this point Shazia attempted suicide but thankfully was saved by her child’s request. Her story increased media’s attention and further humiliated the president of the country, her family was asked to leave the country by the order of the government. They decided to immigrate to Canada but because immediate actions were required they were told to reside in England where they will be further assisted by the government to move to Canada. When landing at England they were abandoned by the government and are living on welfare waiting from their admission to Canada (McKenna, 2006). Egocentrism plays a big role in the hearts of Pakistani men. Their pride and honor has a prestige status; meaning its worth more whereas a woman’s life is worthless.
They created this norm shared by the society. In deciding not to follow the norm results in negative sanctions. Due to the institutionalized corruption many Pakistani women have taken a toll to fight for their rights. Diverse groups including the Women’s Action Forum, the Pakistan Women Lawyers’ Association, the All-Pakistan Women’s Association and the Business and Professional Women’s Association, are supporting projects throughout the country that focus on empowering women.
They have been involved in such activities as instituting legal aid for indigent women, opposing the gendered segregation of universities, and publicizing and condemning the growing incidents of violence against women. ( Group, strict)The progressive women’s association (PWA) and the all Pakistan women’s association (APWA) is comprised of educated individuals; an example of their political struggle is the attempt to change the hadood ordinances law in Pakistan regarding rape. They are quite effective as they are setting the milestone for women standing up for their rights in the country. Conclusion
In light of arguments presented in the paper, the low status of Pakistani women can be attributed to lack of education and cultural values. The consequences are very negative: inequality in the workforce, poor health, and marriage at young age with high fertility and childbearing mortality. Pakistani women lagging behind in education are not aware of their legal rights and are forced to focus on obligations of family life. Although this paper is geared mainly towards the women in rural areas of Pakistan, the cultural and traditional aspect of life imposed on women still persists in middle and higher classes, merely less strict. Hence, there is definitely a big gap between the loose group of women and the strict group of women. Consequently, a solution to the issue can also be portrayed as bridging the gap between these two respective groups. Assistance from the global community will be required to educate different populations to invoke change.
Resources APA style
Annual Report. (2009). Health of women in Pakistan. Society of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists of Pakistan. Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Center (JPMC).
Amnesty International. (1999). Pakistan, Honour Killings of Girls and Women.
Country Briefing Paper, Women in Pakistan. (2000). Situation Analysis of Women in Pakistan: An overview
Ibraz, Tassawar S. Fatima, Anjum. (1993). Uneducated and Unhealthy: The Plight of Women in Pakistan. The Pakistan Development Review. 32:4 Part II, pp. 905-915
Jehan, Qamar. (2000). Role of Women in Economic Development of Pakistan.
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McKenna, Terence. (Feb-Mar 2006). In Dept Pakistan: Pakistan, Land, Gold, Women. CBC news. Retrieved from: http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/pakistan/mckenna_pakistan.html
Munir, Shafqat. (2001). Institutionalized Exploitation of Women as Negative Impact of Globalization. Journalists for Democracy and Human Rights” (JDHR) Pakistan.
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