Women in Pakistan – Victims of the Social and Economic Desecration
The South Asian subcontinent is the least gender sensitive region in the world. It is the only region in the world where men outnumber women. The sex ratio is 105.7 men to every 100 women. In Pakistan, women are not only subjected to financial discrimination, but they are also victims of inhuman customs such as Karo Kari (i.e. honor killing) and unfavorable laws such as defending herself for being raped in the court of law.
In the rural areas, women are like slaves subject to drudgery. They are there just to obey their fathers, brothers and husbands. They do not have the right to decide about themselves because women are considered as foolish creatures according to the dominant social and cultural norms. Likewise marriage is also a sort of trade between different families both in the rural and urban areas. They are highly vulnerable to violation of their rights to life.
A woman's right to liberty is restricted in the name of modesty, protection and prevention of immoral activity. In rural areas 90% of women work in the fields. They work for the whole day with their male family members, but they still have to face their wrath. Male family members keep a strict eye on the female family members in the name of "honor". But one must understand the meaning of honor because in our society honor does not have the meaning of its true sense. Here it really means possession of women as a form of property. Not only are the restrictions of women's liberty maintained in the name of this honor (ghairat) but they also can be put to death if they lose their "honor".
Karo Kari is the form of honor killings. The independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, citing government figures, said in a report last year that about 1,000 women die annually in honor killings. Many of the cases of Karo Kari are related to love marriage. Recently a woman with her little child of five months, husband and four other members of her in-laws, was killed because she had committed the crime of love marriage. Most of the women in Pakistan are not allowed to marry a person of their choice.
There are hundreds of such cases, that are not registered. But if we go to the root cause of these honor killings we see that they are linked to the question of land, water, money and property. But again, only the women of the poor classes are victims of this inhuman custom of Karo Kari. This custom is seldom implemented against rich women.
In the Punjab brothers, fathers and husbands subject 82% of women to domestic violence. The incidence of wife-battering is so common that it is not even recognized as a pernicious form of violence against women. Even in the cases where women receive serious injuries and want to file complaints, they are advised by the police to reconcile with their husbands, as any matrimonial dispute would bring dishonor to them.
This violence against women begins in their childhood. They are not allowed to play games like boys that can help in their speedy mental and physical development. Another practice common in Pakistan, is cutting off a women's nose if she is suspected of having an extra-marital relationship. Sexual assault on women, including rape, remains one of the most common crimes. The Human Rights Commission estimated that rape occurs every three hours. No estimate, however, can be made of the numerous cases that go unreported.
The domestic labor of women, looking after the children, cleaning the house, cooking, washing and the many other forms of labor in which women are involved is a full day's work. But this system does not reward this human labor. Hence the cultural, social, moral and ethical roots of society are devised in such a manner that this system gets the labor of women in running society for free and is taken for granted. Hence this condition whereby women do not get back the product of their labor, develops a psychology of alienation. This further weakens and depresses women. Utilizing this situation the rulers of this system create laws, customs and rotten cultural traditions to further oppress women.
These pressures upon women further diminished their will, confidence, and determination. These reactionary periods developed a defeatist psychology amongst women. To abide by the ethics of this society, they are lured into behaving as commodities with excessive use of cosmetics and make-up, with a lust for jewellery and a psychology of decoration.
These traits are then further exploited by rich men into further subjugating women and portraying them as "weaknesses" of women. Using this social insecurity, alienation and the pressures on women, the capitalists exacerbate the exploitation of women workers in the factories and mills. It has been seen in general that women work with greater dedication and more meticulously than men. For example in Pakistan, women are 28% of the total workforce yet they generate 40% of production. At the same time it is a general law of capitalism that women workers are paid less than their male counterparts all around the world. For example according to the Office of National Statistics in Britain, the average yearly income of male workers in 1999 was £23,000 (pounds sterling) while at the same time the average wage of a female worker was £16,000. Hence there was a difference of 42% in their wage earnings. In Pakistan and the rest of the third world this situation is even worse.
At the same time the gender insensitivity is so severe that from the cradle to the grave women are forced to lead a discriminated life. There are more infant deaths among girls than among boys. Every year 135,000 women die during childbirth in Pakistan. Only 21% of women have access to medical facilities during childbirth.
The tragedy with the women's movements is that women from the upper classes, who mostly dominate them, have never had to suffer the same ordeals as the women of the oppressed classes. The adverse conditions in important sectors such as public hygiene, health and education, have a greater bearing on women of the working classes. Hence the struggle for the rights of women and their liberation have different meanings for women of different classes.
Without the overthrow of the bourgeois state and capitalist exploitation, the emancipation of working class women (who constitute the vast majority in society) is a utopia. Hence the ultimate liberation of women is linked to the class struggle of the workers of all religions, nationalities, races, sexes and colors.
The ultimate destiny and victory of this struggle lies in the success of the Revolutionary Aptitude.