After a recent poll by Thomson Reuters Foundation stated that Pakistan is the world’sthird most dangerous country for women, many men moaned. What else do you women want, they say, looking at their women colleagues who earn as much as them and get the same perks and privileges.
Here is what we want: a realistic view of the acute problem of discrimination against womenin our society.
Even if we do not talk about sexual and domestic violence that Pakistani women are routinely subjected to, there is still a long way to go to address the chauvinistic attitudes that remain entrenched. Phrases, such as “lady doctor” or “lady health worker” are used on a regular basis, as though being female makes her less professional than a male doctor or health worker. Even today, when someone advertises to hire an office secretary, their gender – female – is a criterion. Some jobs are considered more “suitable” for women, for instance, teaching where they can be close to their kids or return home before their husbands/fathers, as opposed to more “hardcore” professions such as law or accountancy. Anything to do with clothes or physical appearance – such as fashion designing or hair styling – is considered appropriate.
But what is alarming is that these are the attitudes affecting those who are able to go out and make a choice, albeit out of options enforced upon them by someone else. They cannot even begin to indicate the sort of problems and pressures that a large majority of Pakistani women must face every day – from being socially-ostracised for giving birth to a female child to being branded of loose character for taking up a job to help provide for her family.
Pakistan is not a safe or conducive place for women and no matter how annoying the constant “nagging” gets that is a fact that can neither be denied nor ignored. Just because a handful of women are able to choose what they study, where they work and who they marry does not mean our society has become friendlier to women. There is a long walk to freedom and only “nagging” will get us there.