9 important questions we want to ask Pakistanis who hate women's rights movements

9 important questions we want to ask Pakistanis who hate women's rights movements

Like, what makes you think women already have the rights they're fighting for?
Updated 01 Nov, 2019

This story was originally published on 29 March, 2017.

It’s no secret that a lot of people in Pakistan don’t support women’s rights movements. There are lots of people out there, men and women, who for some reason believe feminism and the desire to uplift women is evil, wrong or just plain unnecessary.

As social media becomes our dominant mode of communication, these people often take to the web to express their views. Recently one such person aired their views on a web platform. He posed a list of questions to desi feminists.

Well, we have some of our own – questions that we’re longing to ask everyone who has an issue with uplifting the status of women in Pakistan.

1) Do you really understand the movement you hate so much?

There appears to be confusion about what feminism means — and doesn't.

Simply put, feminism is the belief that women shouldn’t be discriminated against on the basis of their gender.

Maybe you believe the struggle to make this a reality involves depriving men of their rights. Well, actually, the opposite is true. Feminism is good for everyone. A society that upholds gender equality doesn’t just offer up benefits to women, it helps men too.

How, you ask? Well, feminism helps men by releasing men from strict gender roles that proclaim men can’t cry, can’t be artists, can’t be chefs, can’t be stay-at-home fathers, can’t do anything remotely ‘feminine.’

In our ever more costly global economy, a society that upholds gender equality will allow women to enter the workforce in larger numbers, adding to a household's income and easing financial pressure. In a just and equal society fathers won’t have to worry about their daughters being molested on the street. Friends won't have to guard doors for their female friends when they use public bathrooms, protecting them from assault. And deserving women will climb the corporate ladder just the same as men, and all genders will benefit from the expertise and experiences of the other.

2) What makes you think women already have the rights they're fighting for?

A lot of people who oppose women's rights movement believe women have 'enough' rights.

To these people who assume that women in Pakistan fully enjoy such basic rights as the right to study and the right to work, well, you need to wake up to the simple fact that having certain rights on paper doesn't translate to enjoying those rights in real life.

Here are two examples: first, the Pakistan Social and Living Standards Measurement (PSLM) survey states that the literacy rate for males in 2015 was 70 per cent and 49 per cent for females, a gap of 21 per cent. Second, at a mere 22 per cent in 2015, Pakistan has the lowest female labour force participation rate in South Asia.

Pakistan was ranked the second last country in the Global Gender Gap Index for the second year in a row in 2016. And these are just statistics - the anecdotal evidence that women, especially women from impoverished backgrounds, single women, divorced women and women from minority groups are treated as second-class citizens in Pakistan is staggering.

With this evidence, how anyone can suggest that women already have the rights they are demanding for is beyond comprehension.

3) Why do you dislike 'strong and independent' women so much?

And has Pakistan really allowed women to fully exercise their independence? The lives of Qandeel Baloch and Maria Toorpakay Wazir suggest otherwise
And has Pakistan really allowed women to fully exercise their independence? The lives of Qandeel Baloch and Maria Toorpakay Wazir suggest otherwise

You say you don't have a problem with women, but any time a woman steps out of the roles patriarchy defines for her: obedient wife, doting mother, caring sister, meek employee - you freak out.

Simply take the very recent case of actor/TV host Noor, who was bombarded with insults about her character when she publicly announced her intention to divorce her husband. Earlier last year, popstar Annie revealed that she was shamed for re-marrying after her divorce. From these examples, it’s clear that Pakistani society does not like it when women take their lives in their own hands.

Or look at the struggle of Maria Toorpakay Wazir, whose dream of playing squash only became a reality when she disguised herself as a boy. While growing up in Waziristan, Maria trained and competed as a boy because it was frowned upon for girls to wear shorts.

And then we have the example of Qandeel Baloch, who lost her life because of her refusal to conform. Qandeel rose out of her background of poverty and illiteracy by cultivating a powerful social media presence that was just beginning to pave the way for a career in media when she was murdered by her brother.

This kind of discrimination extends beyond women in the public eye.

Pakistani women are punished so often for trying to exercise their right to choose that stories of acid attacks and honour killings have started to feel commonplace — or not big news.

So for anyone wondering where Pakistan’s strong and independent women are, they just need to look at the hundreds of women that we choke and silence for speaking up for themselves.

And to people who choke and silence these women - again, we ask: what are you afraid of?

4) Why do you want women to be 'strong and independent' in exactly the same way as men?

We don't want to be the same as men, we want to stand shoulder to shoulder with them
We don't want to be the same as men, we want to stand shoulder to shoulder with them

People who oppose women's rights movements often say that since women are biologically different from men, they don't need the same rights as men. They say women should fight in the army or should be manual labourers to prove their worth before they get to be treated the same as men.

Also read: Defusing bombs, defying stereotypes — KP woman to become first female BDU member

First of all, to say any human being has to 'prove' their worth before being considered equal in the eyes of the law and society is a gross injustice and grossly prejudiced. Every human being should be considered equal to every other person regardless of their gender and the work they do. If you think otherwise you're sexist and bigoted. That's honestly all we should have to say, really.

But let's look at your beliefs another way.

Your beliefs stem from a twisted understanding of what feminism is (so we would direct you back to Question 1 for reference). You seem to think feminists are a bunch of women who want to 'be' men, and therefore replicate their behaviour and replace men.

Well, you're wrong. Feminists don't want to be men. We just want to be treated equally in society without being discriminated against for our gender. So you can relax, no one's going to steal your identity.

Read more: PIA pilots make history by becoming first pair of sisters to fly Boeing-777s concurrently*

Some women might want to work in the army, fighting on the front lines. That's fine, and why not? Maybe some women want to work on construction sites. Why shouldn't they?

We want choices, we don't want to step inside your skin.

5) What on earth makes you think the patriarchy benevolently handed human rights to women?

A WAF rally being brutally dispersed in Lahore, 1983
A WAF rally being brutally dispersed in Lahore, 1983

Um, just to be clear, patriarchy didn't 'give' women rights - people who believed in feminism fought for these rights until their demands couldn't be ignored any longer.

Many people in Pakistan who oppose feminism and women's rights movements mistakenly believe that rights were simply 'granted' to women out and that women should therefore be 'grateful.' This is incorrect.

Here’s a little history lesson: women were first allowed to vote in the US in 1920. The US Constitution finally recognised the right of American women to vote. Do you know how long it took them? Almost a century. The right to vote wasn't simply 'granted' to women by the system - feminists had to fight for it. This movement started in 1848 when a number of men and women decide that every American woman deserves the right to political autonomy.

In Pakistan alone there have been movements against the government for denying women their basic rights. For example, In 1981, Pakistani women sought to take control from the unforgiving patriarchal system through the establishment of Women’s Action Forum (WAF), pledging to resist Gen Zia’s newly formulated Hudood laws.

And would you believe that we're still fighting for our rights because issues like domestic violence are still rampant in our society. You should also know that every second woman in Pakistan suffers from some form of domestic violence, but this is always overlooked as they're matters of the home.

Any achievements in women's rights have been made through the active campaigning of female and male feminists for women.

6) Why are you so hypocritical?

Seriously, why?

Most people who oppose feminism and women’s rights movements start their conversations with, “I love women, but…”

Newsflash: if in conversations about women you find yourself frequently saying “but”; if you don’t want women to have equal access to healthcare, education and employment opportunities; if you treat your female relatives differently than you treat women that you don’t know; if you have a problem with women expressing themselves freely in ways not expressly sanctioned by you – well, you don’t love women. Instead, you love controlling them.

We mean, at least be honest about your sexism. Then we can start having a real conversation.

7) And why do you keep bringing religion into all this?

Some people who oppose feminism and female empowerment in Pakistan say that if women really wanted equality, they’d turn to religion.

Unfortunately, we all know how easy is it for rogue elements in society to twist religious beliefs to meet their own dubious ends. So what makes you think this is going to be any different?

8) If you want feminism to be 'over' so badly, why don't you just help us create an equal society and be done with it?

We're just as tired of taking out rallies.
We're just as tired of taking out rallies.

Another gem people in Pakistan frequently offer up as justification for hating women’s rights movements is this: “I can’t see the end of feminist movements. They got some of what they’re asking for. When will they stop? I’m tired of all this.”

Again, this kind of thinking stems from the belief that women should shut up, sit down, and be grateful for whatever scraps of equality have been thrown at them. This type of thinking stems from the belief that women are inherently unequal.

But have you ever thought about it this way?

If you really want to see fewer women’s marches on the streets and fewer feminist quotes on Facebook – why don’t you create a just and equal society where women have the same rights as any other gender? In a truly equal society you’d see less protests and less agitation because there’d be fewer injustices to protest about. Isn’t that a cool idea? Technically, if you’re “so tired” of feminism, why don’t you aid the movement and help it achieve its goals faster?

We’re tired too. We’re tired of overt discrimination and unconscious bias. We’d love to get this over with. So how about a little help?

9) Why don't you see women as people yet?

It's 2017. It's time to embrace the fact that women are complex human beings just like you.

There is no one 'right' way to be a woman just like there's no one straight path to being a good man.

Instead of looking at the problem through a gendered lens, that is, as men vs women and vice versa, view the issues women face as problems faced by human beings, by people.

Perhaps in that light you’ll understand that we don’t need to ‘earn’ our rights or ‘prove worthy’ of them, because as people women have the right to the same things as men, because surprise, surprise, we’re more alike than you think.

Let's see each other as people first, and as gendered pronouns second.


Saif zulfiqar Mar 29, 2017 03:52pm
Those Pakistanis who hate Women Rights Movements, have never gone to school. The are illiterate and are burden on the nation. They believe in honour killings, throwing acid on the faces of women, they do not want girls schools etc etc.
Pakistani Mar 29, 2017 04:28pm
a man who does not understand how to respect a woman is worse than an animal. That's it!!!
Saba Mar 29, 2017 04:41pm
By and large, Pakistani men don't "hate" women the way that kind of "misogyny" exists in the west. We know this because in Pakistan we get to skip lines, are given priority in public spaces like parks, etc. I know there is a lot of discrimination, but still everywhere women go, there's always the "ladies" factor that men suddenly start stating. Pakistani men are insecure that their relative women might be seen by other women, and this stems out of insecurities of illiterate religious scholars, who preach to educated men (who are uneducated about religion). If we learn about Islam, we'll understand how pro-feminism it is.
akram Mar 29, 2017 05:00pm
@Saif zulfiqar virtually all of the religous people have been to some sort of school in order to read, but they are the most anti women and full of backward ideas of all Pakistanis. They use religion to justify their behaviour. So I don't believe they have not been to school, a lot of other Pakistani men are educated, but share these absurd ideas. The reason is they fear disempowerment of the control many men hold over women.
Moth Mar 29, 2017 05:22pm
For women. Just stick together, be united, and get your rights with your collective strength. It is not easy to change men mentality in short time period. So fight for the following: 1. Equal job opportunity in federal and provincial jobs 2. Equal access and opportunity in education 3. Equal opportunity in employment 4. Equal opportunity in politics and in community development 5. Equal opportunity in freedom of expression and freedom of speech Rest will be straightend down the road.
TaN Mar 29, 2017 05:31pm
Women have equal rights in everything and this equality should prevail everywhere. People who doesn't respect women and their rights are inhuman and mostly illiterate. They are afraid of their own flaws.
Brahmdgh Mar 29, 2017 05:46pm
If a man from a western country, say Sweden, objects to the third wave feminism. He PROBABLY has got a point. But a men from Pakistan, or any Muslim country in general, have got zero right to "hate women's rights movements".
Haider Mar 29, 2017 05:48pm
Its all about money. No pne is intrested in Pakistan for women's rights. Even NGOS do it for money making by exploiting women for commercial purposes. So sad!
imaad Mar 29, 2017 06:02pm
There are many more approaches other than feminism ...... I do not like the concept of feminism as according to the modern developed world it is "gender equality" that matters. The concept of gender equality is very good and all efforts should be made in order make it a reality. So what will happen if there is gender equality? Firstly all the fuss about women being weak and discriminated will finish. Also there would be no reserved seat/qouta for women in the parliament due to which the word merit will be implemented in true nature and spirit. There will not and should not be any separate lines / queues for women in banks etc.. all would be treated equally.. everyone would talk about the common needs of humans rather than just women.... That is the beauty of gender equality.. So you still ask me why I am against feminism? It's because I am for gender equality and think of each and every person as an equal..... hope the haters are satisfied :-)
Rehana Agha Mar 29, 2017 06:36pm
FEMINISM means nothing but equal rights and equal opportunities.
imtiaz faruqui Mar 29, 2017 06:48pm
Pakistan will remain in dark age until the women do not get their full rights as men. Mullahs have spread this misconception that Woman have no brain. On the contrary uneducated men who believe this, have a brain of a 10 year old boy.
gulab Mar 29, 2017 07:03pm
What kind of stone age country Are you living in?
Zunaira Abbbas Mar 29, 2017 07:04pm
yes exactly
HaMAAD Mar 29, 2017 07:05pm
Pakistani men must stop the harassment and violence that they inflict on women whether in their families or outside.
simmy Mar 29, 2017 07:10pm
brilliant article
Sameer Mar 29, 2017 07:24pm
Women rights is a just worth coming out of the house for. If women rights is democracy then feminism undoubtedly as shrewd as kleptocracy. Women rights talks about good and bad times. Feminism is what suits the excuse...that is...when one wants preference we can play the "women first"card...but when equality suits as we play the other. A simple example is of say, doctors in a federal hospital...all men and women give 30hour shifts...equally. this is beautiful and worth appreciating(women rights for equality). In an another civil hospital, women complain we are females thus no 24 hour rotations and no night shifts so all those get transfered to the guys...thats feminism. Now this is amazing...the federal hospital where the men and women work equally has no feminist group...but the civil hospital does.
Saeeds Mar 29, 2017 07:28pm
Pakistani law is not against women. Woman can become Prime minister and president. Secular political parties and secular Pakistani people are biggest the supporter of women right. Only religious minded people and religious parties have issue with women right. Instead of asking Pakistani ask these question to religious people and parties.
Sameer Mar 29, 2017 07:28pm
@Moth I agree. How ever, i must confess that women rights are best represented by examples of Wajiha Arooj. Feminism is represented by women dancing in the streets and #doingmyownthing.
Zaman channa Mar 29, 2017 07:45pm
Personaly i am not against the fair rights of women at any cost , but why it is like that women will fight for the rights of driving a car but never seemed to fight for their compulsory space in the mosques for all time prayers at every mosque ??
hasan Mar 29, 2017 08:10pm
I think it is a mistake to assume that the gender roles that are imposed on men do not go beyond "men can't cry" or "men can't be chefs". As it happens though men can be chefs. Have you ever seen the people who are called in to prepare food at funerals or weddings? (I can't remember what they are called) No. The traditional gender roles that are imposed on men go from sacrificing young men to protect the tribe to telling them to provide for their family and holding them accountable if they don't.
Moth Mar 29, 2017 08:11pm
@Sameer my understanding is that feminist movement is all about gender equality and is not about vulgarity or indecency of any gender in a society.
sam Mar 29, 2017 08:53pm
Many of the well educated also are of the same mindset.
Awaz... Mar 29, 2017 09:46pm
Gender relations in Pakistan rest on two basic perceptions: that women are subordinate to men, and that a man's honor resides in the actions of the women of his family. Thus, as in other orthodox Muslim societies, women are responsible for maintaining the family honor. To ensure that they do not dishonor their families, society limits women's mobility, places restrictions on their behavior and activities, and permits them only limited contact with the opposite sex. By separating women from the activities of men, both physically and symbolically, purdah creates differentiated male and female spheres. Most women spend the major part of their lives physically within their homes and courtyards and go out only for serious and approved reasons. The traditional division of space between the sexes is perpetuated in the broadcast media. Women's subservience is consistently shown on television and in films.
rashid nasim Mar 29, 2017 10:58pm
Weather it si "Women Right", or anything else like. There is only one solution. That is EDUCATION. Stop building any highways, bridges and other large projects for next 25 years and spend all that money on education. There should be primary school within 1 mile of all Pakistani residence, Should be High School within 2 miles of every residence, 1-10 colleges in every medium to large cities and 1-2 universities in every medium to large cities. Girl or Boy must have at least complete high school education (12th Grade). within next two generation (20-30 years) most of these problems will go away. This will also have significant political implication which will need some help from honest politicians like Imran Khan.
Ghulam fareed wattoo Mar 29, 2017 11:02pm
Iam 22 year old graduation student. I respect women. I have a sister also. But when i saw women who run away with other man whom he know just for last few moments . When where goes your movements. A father who fight with all society and send her to school and she make conecction with her suitor and run away bycot her family. What about that father.
HASSAN sAJJAD Mar 30, 2017 12:13am
Equality ? well I guess men and women need equity not equality. There are certain roles that nature has assigned to men and women which only they can do best. It would be great if we master what we are best in naturally. Women should be educated but working like a labor in the streets and lifting weights ? that really hurts our manliness and being a gentlemen I guess I wont like it..
Satyameva Jayate Mar 30, 2017 12:47am
Most Pakistani men, with pride, proclaim that they respect women. But the same men do not want their sisters and daughters to learn to swim or walk along with their male classmates.
expat Mar 30, 2017 04:38am
Quoting Qandeel Baloach as a role model to support women rights? Not that I support her killing, but we need to realise that Pakistan is home to a whole different bunch of cultures. Most of them might not support public dances #DYOT or public shaming, to say the least. Maybe the right way to approach would be to highlight more appropriate role models, something people can relate to, rather than emulating an eccentric western movement. After all Pakistan is one of the only two countries made in the name of religion. In my opinion education is the only solution for most of the issues we have as a nation.
zubaida Khan Mar 30, 2017 05:16am
@gulab, my dear caveman, the above article was written by a pakistani, it has over a thousand words, its printed in a well read daily, its readership is worldwide using sophisticated instruments called computers, the article highlights the journey yet to occur. Still think this is a cave?
Syed Daniyal ahmed Mar 30, 2017 06:48am
The thing is, not many people hate the women's rights movement. Not many hate feminism. What is actually happening in Pakistan is that there are no human rights for either men or women. So when someone start raising the slogans of women's rights people get sick of because you can't be selective in giving rights to people.
Margareta Mar 30, 2017 06:49am
This is an excellent article and very well written. Reading the comments posted below, it's obvious that the author is 100% right and that Pakistan has a long, long way to go when it comes to gender equality. Many of the comments are disheartening and proof of a misogynistic mindset. Hopefully the ladies will continue their struggle and not give up until they are treated as complete human beings capable of making their own decisions without interference, and of deciding how and where they want to live and work, and at the same time have the full support of Pakistani men, the same way that Pakistani women support their men. Nobody wants nor deserves to live in a cage, be it gilded or not. I have many Pakistani girlfriends. Many with doctorates and still they are treated like brainless idiots who can't decide what is best for themselves.
Mr.T Mar 30, 2017 09:07am
As there are no leadership which guides the Men or Women how to live in society such as ours. And those who can guide, are not allowed to be guided.
Anoosh khan Mar 30, 2017 09:56am
The worst is when women themselves oppose these movements! And...say they believe in women rights but are not feminists. I have not been able to understand this stance to date.
Chirag Patel Mar 30, 2017 12:34pm
I havent been to Pakistan but....Pakistani men in the West have same mentality....they think women have too many rights in the west.... and even in the west women are stiĺl fighting for equal rights....imagine
Shaheera Mar 30, 2017 04:01pm
This piece was much needed. You've taken an on-point route of rephrasing the Parhlo author's original questions to make a case. About time we bring the 'F' word - FEMINISM - into mainstream discourse , gradually but definitely.
vinod narang Mar 30, 2017 06:19pm
Excellent analysis in this article. Pakistani men who are afraid of women freedom need to grow up. God has created all of us equal. I fully supported my daughter to become a Pharmacist so she will have a bright future and will help financially in her house hold. Remember 1+1 can be two or 11 it is all up to you men. Give women their due it is 21 st century get out of 18th century.
Amina Wasif Mar 31, 2017 02:16am
Thanks for coming up with an article which brilliantly puts forth exactly why we need Women's rights Movements. Of course self hating women will still find a way to criticize it as will the goons patriarchy has successfully bred for centuries. But a big Thank You for this article!
Anu Mar 31, 2017 04:34am
"if in conversations about women you find yourself frequently saying “but”; if you don’t want women to have equal access to healthcare, education and employment opportunities; if you treat your female relatives differently than you treat women that you don’t know; if you have a problem with women expressing themselves freely in ways not expressly sanctioned by you – well, you don’t love women. Instead, you love controlling them. We mean, at least be honest about your sexism. Then we can start having a real conversation." Beautifully put! Respect!
Tag Apr 01, 2017 03:00am
@HASSAN sAJJAD why wouldnt you? Even if you dont like it, let the women do what they want to do. This is what equality is.
sana Apr 04, 2017 09:16am
There are thousands of people , both men and women,who cannot embrace with idea of gender equity. Unfortunately being a uni graduate doesn't make any difference in this attitude.