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Feminism in Pakistan

Out of the fifteen people asked, 53% of the survey population responded negatively to the question inquiring whether men were equal to women.Zahra Mania, a secretary for a business organization claimed that in our society, there is a substantial gap in the rights of men and women.The interviewee claimed that despite both sexes being intellectually equal, preference is given to men in acquiring important jobs such as being CEO, CFO, etc.

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Another respondent, who opted to remain anonymous backed this point by stating that women are far more likely to attain low-paying jobs such as being secretaries or receptionists.

A journalist refuted these points by saying that in her profession, men were given equal rights to women and that in order to be promoted, a person’s work was taken into consideration, not his or her gender. Similarly, another journalist agreed with this point, adding further that equality between men and women is mostly dependant on the customs of a society, and the career one wishes to pursue. When asked about what would have to change before men and women achieved true equality, 18% responded negatively stating that in a patriarchal society, it would be nearly impossible for men and women to achieve equal rights.

The rest 82% had optimistic views, claiming that while it would indeed be difficult to change the mindset of people who firmly believe in male dominance, a good start would be with the family. Many respondents believed that children need to be socialized in such a way where they believe that male and females are equal. If a boy is brought up to believe that he is no different from his sister, he will have a more positive outlook on life claimed Sana Memon. Another respondent stated that the oppression of women had to come to an end and in doing so, education would play a big part.

According to her, education would eradicate ignorance within a persons character, and would lead to a deeper understanding of the other sex. When asked the question of what change does one wish to see regarding women’s rights, male respondents generally claimed that they did not want the workings of society changed. Ahmed Shehzab, an accountant, stated that women’s rightful place is at home, looking after the family whereas men have a duty to generate income and provide for their family.

Similarly, another businessman claimed that women are inferior to men in both intelligence and physical exertion, and are therefore unable to handle the strain of leading a company. However, many respondents refuted these points by saying that women should be given more freedom. Nausheen Afzal claimed that in western countries, women are more liberated and are allowed to participate in almost anything. Being a pro-feminist, she believes that the same rights should be implemented in Pakistan. 72% of the survey population believe that the family plays an important part in gender role socialization.

Fahaama Khalid, a housewife, believes that children are heavily influenced by the perceptions and thoughts of their family, with whom they spend a lot of time. She believes that (specifically in Pakistan), girls are socialized in such a way that they are lead to believe that they are physically weaker than men and lack male dominant qualities. Girls are primarily raised to be mothers and care-takers of the household and are expected to obey their husbands rules. Similarly, Farhana Farooq who is a shopkeeper, believes that the family plays a crucial role in a child’s life.

It is the family, she says, who influences the child using both direct and indirect methods. Direct methods, she explains, includes sending children to segregated schools and stopping girls from participating in athletic activities whereas indirect methods are when a child looks at his family, sees his father as the head and his mother as a nurturing woman, and automatically assumes that that is what is normal. Faareha Ansar, a waitress, refutes these points by saying that education is what has a more important role in a child’s life, for it is through knowledge and its application that children realize how society works. 1% of the survey population is of the belief that gender plays an important role in a person’s life chances. Anushe Zafar, a salesclerk says that in a patriarchal and close-minded society as the one in Pakistan, high-paying jobs are generally offered to men. She states that despite the fact that a female may have the same qualifications as a male, males are more likely to be favoured for jobs. Hassan Javed backs this point, saying that women are far more likely to attain positions such as receptionists or PA’s in lieu of occupations such as CEO’s or CFO’s. There are mixed views when considering feminism to be defensive or offensive. 3% of the survey population believes that feminism is offensive and ridiculous. Waleed Khan, a shopkeeper, says that feminism is a waste of time and an excuse for women. However, many others refuted this point by claiming that women have a right to be heard, to have their sufferings acknowledged and appreciated and also to maintain equal status with men at all levels. The hypothesis of this report is that Pakistan has a patriarchal society and does not give much freedom to women. Many respondents have proved for this theory to be true, giving their honest opinions and using examples from their work life.

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