Women’s Rights in Pakistan
Question asked by .
Answered by Saadia Malik

I am a Palestinian Muslim. I already know many things about Islam. I, however, wanted to ask you a couple of questions: Do you in Pakistan give equal rights of education for both genders – male and female? Do the women even have the right to be educated, in Pakistan?


Your concern is important, and I shall try to simplify my response as much as possible. Pakistan is a developing country and its growth rates have not been encouraging – relative to, for instance, India since the country’s creation in 1947. The lack of efficient allocation and sub-optimal exploitation of resources have been translated into a society of low literacy rates, low levels of hygiene etc. Most of Pakistan’s population lives below the poverty line. This implies that poor parents prepare their kids for hard work and toil, or alternatively, for begging from very young ages. We see five year olds begging on the streets, cleaning the gutters, working as home servants, or employed for manual labor in factories, and so on. My own inclination is to understand all this, as a product of poverty more than anything else. Why wouldn’t parents want to spend in their children’s education instead of forcing them to bring much needed money into the household? Since death rates are high, especially infant mortality rates in the villages of Pakistan, poor parents produce many children, in the hope that some will survive to work.

Now, having said all that, let’s come to the question of entertaining the ‘rights to education of girls and boys’. Sadly enough, there is great tendency to generalize on the basis of what I have explained above regarding the adverse state of affairs in Pakistan. They exaggerate the situation as much as to claim that children’s rights to modern studies have generally declined in the country. I think this is not the case. My argument is based on the very encouraging, and evident success of NGOs (Non-Government Organizations). There are many projects currently underway, in the rural areas of the country that are aiming to educate the masses, at least up to the secondary level. The way some of them work is extremely pleasant; they offer a fixed amount of money each time a child attends a class lecture. This is an excellent imitation of a welfare state by the conscious members of out society. Such programs eradicate two problems: they educate the children, and simultaneously, improve the financial positions of poverty-stricken households. With the kind of response that is being announced by these NGOs, it seems that parents are willingly and happily sending their children to study, and express their jubilation over the opportunity for their kids to live a normal and healthy childhood. I view this as a marvelous attempt to revitalize the system of education for children. There was a time when girls were absolutely discouraged, but by the grace of the Almighty, those scenarios seem to be disappearing; except of course, in areas where either the jagirdars (landlords) impose all kinds of slavery impressions in order to maintain their rein over their subjects, or where cultures are still primitive.

Coming to city life, where mainly the middle and upper class reside permanently, there is much insistence on good education for both boys and girls. Those who can afford to see their girls and boys enroll into PhD programs at home and abroad. There are exceptions, of course. It may be noteworthy to mention here that some employers even educate their home servants – male and female – on a personal level inside their houses.

To sum it all up, in my opinion, the question is not about allowing education for males and females, rather, the question is about allowing education to precede sustenance. Of course, this opinion is open to criticism.


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