By Altaf Kumail
Women’s Day is being celebrated all over the world today. Historically, the purpose of this day was to pay tribute to the women who made great sacrifices for their rights in Europe and the West and convinced Western societies that they were human beings, just like men, having equal rights!
Within the Islamic world, the concept of celebrating International Women’s Day is different. Islam has innately given honor and dignity to women in the form of mother, daughter, sister, and wife. Therefore, women did not have to launch a feminist movement to get their rights!
From the Islamic point of view, a woman, if she is a mother, has heaven under her feet, comfort in the form of a wife, honor in the form of a sister, and mercy in the form of a daughter. This is an oft repeated mantra, which poets and activists, as well as common people peddle to make a point.
The reality, however, is different. Our society has so far failed to fully understand and implement the position of woman of Islam. Due to the lack of education, due to presence of traditions entrenched in patriarchy, and tribal cultures, Pakistani women are still forced to live in a world full of systematic turmoil.
This is despite of the fact that women have played a crucial role in the development and prosperity of Pakistan, from day one. From Fatima Jinnah to Benazir Bhutto, Asma Jahangir and Sharmeen Obaid Chennai to Arfa Karim and Malala Yousafzai, women leaders have left global impact, in almost all fields of life. However, the country still needs a conducive environment for women’s rights and better development resources. Which, of course, made the video an overnight sensation. Even today our women have many problem and many rights are denied to them.
Pakistan also celebrates International Women’s Day on March 8 with renewed vigor and enthusiasm in which seminars, events, and rallies in favor of women are organized at the level of government, semi-government, NGOs, and civil society. And they seem to point out women’s issues.
While at one hand there are myriad NGOs and movements making money in the name of women empowerment, ordinary women struggle to make their voices heard.
Today’s woman is far ahead of men in education, but in our society, a woman gets a job for less than men.
Even today, women in our beloved Pakistan are victims of domestic violence. Rapes of women are reported daily. 4 to 6 girls get burnt every day due to “accidental” explosion of a stove in the house.
We also continue to live under the shadow of inhumane customs like Vani, Watta Satta, Karo Kari, marriage to the Qur’an, burial in the ground, torture, and the cutting of body parts in the name of honor!
If Pakistan is to make progress, we will have to take cognizance of the ground reality. We will have to make women stand side by side with men and give them development opportunities and we will have to formulate women-friendly policies that can restore and enhance the status of women in society and their social and economic hardships can be reduced.
Every aspect of women plays a key role in society. No society is on the path of development unless women are included.