As a branch of society’s concept of fairness, social justice is implied by the terms that measure the distribution of wealth, opportunities and privileges in society. It is also considered the fair and just relation between the individual and society.
Furthermore Gender equality means to give equal rights and responsibilities to all humans, regardless of their biological gender. A subject not to be overlooked, gender equality is one of the main pillars in achieving a holistic development in any country as it has many socio political and economic gains.
Reports published by the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap shows that Pakistan is ranked 143 out of 144 countries surveyed, ranking even lower than it was 10 years ago. The reasoning behind this is that Pakistani women have been systematically denied access to important social facilities that determine the gender gap ranking. These include education, marriage, health, employment, food & water security, deprivation and a say in their life.
This poor ranking represents the little progress and counter productive initiatives Pakistan has made on female empowerment and gender equality on the whole. Women in Pakistan face restrictions at all stages of life, at birth it is common in many homes for families to prefer a son, which is held at a higher importance than those of the opposite gender. Living with countless restrictions, the disparity represents a systemic and historical disadvantage for women in Pakistani society.
Firstly, child marriage is still a big issue today and is actually widespread across all socioeconomic groups, encompassing around 12 percentage of all women aged 18–49, which is equivalent to 4.9 million. The statistics also display that 24 per-cent of women belonging to the richest households and 63 per-cent from the most disadvantaged backgrounds, are married before age 18. Which is incomparable to the low percentage in Australia.
However the largest injustice is education. Around 98.8 per cent of the women from rural backgrounds and 29.3 per cent belonging to the richest urban dwellers lack access to education in Pakistan. Therefor, in total 74 per cent of women on average experience less than 6 years of education. The data also reveals that poor, rural Pashtun women are the most disadvantaged in literacy.
Statistics on the topic of healthcare are also un surprising, women and girls from rural areas witch have a high concentration of poverty, on average have less access to medical services compared to women in suburban areas. The difference between the most advantaged and most disadvantaged groups is considerably large, ranging from around 13.4 and 70.2 per cent.
As the graph reads, on average, 48.1 per cent of women and girls aged 15 have no say in decisions relating to their own health care, though percentages vary significantly by location, wealth and ethnicity, due to taking account of these catergories.
Food insecurity among women is a surprising 11 per cent higher than among men, and only 32 per cent of rural households have access to safe drinking water compared to the 41 per cent of urban households. These large differences also take into account: income and ethnic groups. Furthermore when safe water is not available, women and girls from 80 per cent of households are responsible for water collection, especially in rural areas.
According to recent statistics, around 70 per cent of the female urban population in Pakistan live in slums where they lack, and are deprived of one or more of the following: access to clean water, sanitation facilities, durable housing or sufficient living area.
But there is no denying the fact that women play a significant role in many areas of development in a country. Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah himself has stated that: “A nation can never be developed if women are not working side by side with men,” this is an important fact to be considered as employment is plays a large role in gender discrimination. Evidence to support this is that; in Pakistan 98 per cent of top managers in financial institutions and industrial units, such as banks, are males. This clearly shows that women are not treated equally as candidates for top management positions, and males are given priority over females even in a country where females are more in number.
In the past, Pakistan has been passively forced under pressure by the international community to address gender inequality. So by 1979, Pakistan established the Ministry for Women’s Development in response to the UN Commission on the Status of Women. This ministry facilitated women’s access to education, health, legal services and ensured their placement in provincial and national legislatures. It also set up services, for example: credit facilities, study and computer centres, child care and hostels for working women. But currently, there has been whatsoever no action taken to support this proclamation. Furthermore in the same year (1979) many nations at the General Assembly of United Nations accepted the convention that all ‘traditional’ customs against women in society should be discontinued, including Pakistan. They also promised to give gender justice and equality. But nothing has been practically done to decrease their ranking for gender equality, as a majority of women cannot move beyond the status patriarchy they are born to, thereby remaining excluded from developing necessary skills to be part of the world, essentially.
Malala Yousafzai was one of those women who stood up for what she believed in. She is a Pakistani education advocate who, at the age of 17, became the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize after surviving an assassination attempt by the Taliban. She was born on July 12, 1997, and became an advocate for girls’ education when she herself was still a child, which resulted in the Taliban issuing a death threat against her. On October 9, 2012, Malala was shot by gun-men when she was traveling home from school. She survived the shot to the eys, and has continued to speak out on the importance of education. In 2013, she gave a speech to the United Nations and published her first book, a bibliography. Today she is an important figure and role model for young girls suffering discrimination and is a strong example of what girls are treated like in Pakistan.
To help improve gender inequality in Pakistan the government should introduce laws that prohibit gender discrimination and offer passive solutions for such behaviour in society as well as in marriage, health, employment, food ; water security, deprivation and a say in their life. Although there are signs that behaviour is changing and gender discrimination is decreasing in some sectors, a great deal more needs to be done to move Pakistan’s low ranking upwards. Solid measures need to be taken so that females feel free that they will live their lives as equals with men. New laws will continue to remain ineffectual unless there is a change in mindsets.
Currently Non-government organizations are playing an effective role in promoting female equality in Pakistan. Many non-government organizations such as USAID work with the Government of Pakistan and development partners. They work together to Improve Women’s Access to Economic Opportunities, Increasing Girls’ Access to Education, Supporting Maternal and Child Health, Combating Gender-based Violence, and Increasing Women’s Political and Civic Participation.