Modern age can rightly be defined as awareness of human rights. However, the spirit of dark ages seems to linger on when it comes to woman rights. At present, the movements for women rights and their empowerment has evolved into may dimensions. On international front, it seems that women have taken it upon themselves to stand for their rights and thrash the chauvinist monopoly that strangulates their voices in every domain of life. Driven by outrage and the resolve to thrash power imbalance, Hollywood’s movement, Time’s Up, is but one example.
Before this movement, varying narratives on Feminism has taken the world stage by storm. These narratives did leave an indelible mark on women around the world, however, the nature of outcomes is debatable. Yet one fact remains that women are rising to protect their identities and rights. That woman defies to become a handy tool for man’s monopolistic schemes is the core of all such movements.
Pakistan, where women are insanely repressed, stands affected by the wave of women rights movements. This year, on International Women’s Day, thousands of people gathered in the first-ever Aurat March (Women March), held in Karachi and Lahore, against women discrimination and other gender minorities. This march was a united voice of the women to protest against all forms of discriminations and apartheid approaches towards women. The women of Pakistan took to the streets to claim their rightful space in cultural, social, political and economic spheres.
Although it is an encouraging step as far as women’s rights are concerned, the critical evaluation of the nature and outcomes of the march demands a clear understanding of what woman rights are. For instance, in the march, women were carrying placard which gave very confusing messages: “Have Paratha Rolls Not Gender Roles” and “Khana Khud Gram Kro (Heat Food Yourself). The visual repertoire at the march not only tickled the funny bones but also indicated where lies the problem.
A bird eye view of Pakistani society exposes the patterns of male domination. These patterns have become the fountainhead of most of the narratives which define woman’s role and place in the society. The deplorable fact is that women accept these narratives and pass on to the next generations with a surprisingly passive attitude. The drama industry in Pakistan helps understand this fact. In Pakistani soaps and dramas, woman is portrayed as the one who is either being brutalised by the man or avenging the man at an extremely irrational level. Matrimony is glamorised to such an extent that marriage becomes sole aim of woman’s life. Her whole life begins to revolve around one man who is depicted to be his ideal, prince charming, savior and what not.
All these chauvinist attitudes indicate that women is a mere puppet in the hands of man but why it is so? One of the primal reasons is woman herself. She considers herself helpless, dependant and too feeble. This worldview of hers weaves a pattern of thinking in man which boosts his ego. This situation gets deteriorated when the negligence of her actual rights in religion is factored in. Woman ought to fight her own battles of rights. This does not imply the rights which the West has bestowed on her. It is the right which were given to her by the Holy Prophet (PBUH) and liberated her from all sorts of shackles. She was deemed dignified in every role: mother, daughter, spouse and sister. It is about the honour and freedom that the Holy Quran gave her. She has been treated equally and fairly in all walks of life.
The woman of West has considered the economic equality as the basis of her redemption, which is but an illusion. On TV screens, it appears that the US, the greatest champion of women empowerment, cries with Oprah Winfrey and laughs with Tina Fey. In reality, the situation is quite opposite to it. It is not only the problem of the patriarchal notions but the extreme forms of Feminism and lack of understanding of the inextricable link of rights and duties. If woman is to guard her sperate identity, which is her right, and strive towards gender apartheid attitudes, she must understand first who she is. Self-cognizance can liberate her from the chains of gender violence because soul, the real human being, is neither man nor woman. This pattern of thinking will help woman acquire self-cognizance and mark her name in individual capacity. Therefore, it is a must for the champions of women rights and empowerment that they are fully aware of the women rights and duties in Islam. Only this way, she could save herself from all forms of mirages of empowerment.
– The writer is freelance columnist based in Rawalpindi.