The dark side of policymaking for women in Pakistan


Controversy surrounding Women Protection Bill


Every human has two sides.

One is vile, vindictive and shallow. Where they easily get swayed by aboriginal human impulses such as the insatiable desire for power and its corrupting influence. And lust after things that they can’t acquire and exercise brutal dominance over the things that they do possess.

The other is when they are kind, affectionate and compassionate. Where they overpower their ego, work to rise above materialistic impulses, overcome biases and strive to attain a spiritual nirvana.

Though individuals have the liberty to turn either way, for the plight of the modern man, we hope that the systems don’t.

Systems and policies need to be as just, fair and equitable as they can be in this grey world. We need structures that can correct the individual wrongs rather than being a mere collection of them.

A certain group of people can’t use the pretence of religion or the word of God to mask their own insecurities, project their own agenda and to gain traction in the society.

It is hypocritical, at best.

But that is the norm. People cling to whatever they can, whenever they can to maintain writ and control. It is unfortunate that in Pakistan it is not some material possession that is being subjected to this power politics rather the basic rights of women in the country.

The recently passed Women Protection Bill has thrown the light on the tumour that has been growing in body of our country. The prognosis: pre-malignant stage. Unless proper action is taken it will soon become untreatable.

Pakistan takes great pride in being an Islamic country and a democratic state. However, we are afraid to provide legal protection to women — alienating and emasculating more than half of the population.

We vandalise the efforts to provide legal protection to women from domestic, psychological and sexual violence and portray it as pushing and pursuing western agenda.

We exercise misogyny and chauvinism by putting restrictions and limitation on the liberties of women. And at any perceived sense of loss of power, we project it by professing our sexual dominance over them.

We are quick to camouflage the bride burnings as stove deaths when the flamboyant demands to provide high-priced dowry are not met. Reducing women to ashes, inflating our own sense of self-worth by measuring it in terms of piles of gold and silver.

We shoot young girls with bullets for studying and pursuing education. Like a silent spectator, we watch them get burned with acid for stepping out of their homes. Yet, we are very vocal for advocating the right of someone on their deathbed to marry a nine-year-old girl.

This is the dignity of our culture that those opposing the bill are trying to uphold. Clearly, we need to get the following things straight.

Treating women like property, abusing them and killing them at will was a practice that predated Islam. It seems that the people raising havoc at the perceived sense of loss of patriarchal control missed to read that memo.

Providing women with legal remedies if they are abused doesn’t destroy the social fabric of the society. However, propagating regressive and chauvinistic beliefs on the behest of religion does achieve that goal.

Pro-women doesn’t mean anti-men. It means that more than half of the population of the world is merely trying to carve out some space and assert their value in a world of powerful men.

Violence isn’t a private matter. It is a legal matter. Allowing women to speak up doesn’t add to their miseries, however, being burnt alive does.

Men and women both exercise an equal right to be treated as human beings. In a world that is plagued with class differences and systems that profit a particular niche of people, we can at least try not to manufacture another distinction and avoid the systematic removal of opportunity that infringes on women’s basic freedoms.

Pakistani women have a long struggle to fight for their rights and their equal representation in the various cycles of life. The opposition to the Women Protection Bill is the perfect manifestation of how hard and cumbersome the struggle is.

While individuals can have difference of opinions and can live their lives as they deem fit. But failing to provide legal rights to disenfranchised victims of abuse and violating their basic human rights is a systematic failure.

No one wants to be raped, abused, violated. No one will willingly sabotage their familial lives if the alternative is not worse. No one wants to live their lives under the shadow of social stigmas. For now, all those opposing Women Protection Bill can kindly stop, we don’t need more men to decide what’s best for us on our behalf.

Our country still bears the mark of political leaders caving in to the religious pressures and not standing their ground. Our overly ambitious foreign policy agendas and mischievous across-the-border endeavours had in the past forced us to turn a blind eye to the regressive forces operational in the country. However, in this case, the government can’t let irrational rhetoric to overpower the basic principles of humanity.

If this happens and the law gets repealed, the government of Pakistan will surely land on the wrong side of the history.


  1. Allah Says in the Holy Quran Chapter 2 Surah Baqarah verse 228:

    And women shall have rights similar to the rights against them according to what is equitable; but men have (been bestowed) a degree over them; and Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise.

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