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Pakistan, we say, is a patriarchal society which means that it favors men over women disproportionately. Despite eulogies and high praise about Mothers and Sisters and Daughters, the society discriminates against women savagely.
It is safe to say actually, that the entire world is the same in this respect. Women are not equal to men in status, compensation, growth and future prospects. The difference is that the developed world keeps talking about it while countries like us refuse to even talk about it. We believe that nature has designed this system and we cannot change it. More religious elements rationalize it on the basis of religion and legitimize it.
Our official (belief) position is that women’s place is home. They should stay at home and take care of family, husband, brothers, father, children etc., whatever applies. We repeatedly say that women are equal to men; only the domain of activity varies.
Practical situation is that more and more girls are being coerced into taking up professional education and become doctors, engineers, software developers, marketing, law and so on. The reason given is that it increases their chances of getting a better marriage proposal.
This duplicity and hypocrisy are leading to two equally duplicitous issues. One, a significant percentage of professionally qualified women do not work, mostly due to family/husband pressure. This is a huge waste of resources, before and after qualification. Two, larger numbers of women are getting inducted into workforce every day. Women are working at various positions, from menial to very senior positions.
Gender Bias is at work in all fields, all professions, all areas and at all positions.
Let us start from the top.
Pakistan was the first Muslim country to have a woman Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto. But did she get the position on merit? Her merit came later, but she qualified as PM due to Bhutto family’s dynastic practices. No one followed suit. Maryam Nawaz is trying but she is a far cry and she came into her own only for a flash. Now she is trailing whatever path is thrown before her and it keeps changing.
Few months back, there was a lot of praise for the First Ever Three Star General in Armed Forces, Lt. General Nigar Johar Khan. She is in Army Medical Corps which is a non-combative unit. All the same, it is indeed a huge achievement for her, and she deserves huge compliments. Having said that, it is worth thinking that while tens of army men got promoted as three- and four-star Generals over the years, why only one woman, after 73 years, and not from any active-combat unit? It signifies that army is heavily tilted towards men.
Another highlighted case is that of Ms. Ayesha Farooq who became the First Female Fighter Pilot in Pakistan Air Force. She is just a Flight Lieutenant. Time will tell if and whether and how much her career goes further. For her, it is a great achievement. She hails from a small town in south Punjab and has made it to this position. Male fighter pilots are inducted by the dozens. This case also shows that women definitely have much less opportunities compared to men.
First Female Commercial Pilot Ms. Shukriya Khanum obtained license in 1959. Great Achievement. But it did not exactly open floodgates for more female commercial pilots to rush in.
Come to other professions.
No woman jurist has ever been appointed as a Justice of Supreme Court in Pakistan.
Justice Syeda Tahira Safdar is the First Female Chief Justice of Pakistan, appointed at Baluchistan High Court. She was appointed in July 2018 and was to remain in this position till 4 October 2019. She would be retired by now.
The number of female judges of high court can be counted on fingers. Women judges have never been part of high-profile benches hearing high profile cases.
We now see several women judges working as civil judges, family court judges etc. But will they get elevated to the highest positions is not certain.
Medical and Teaching are two professions where many women reached the position of Professorship. However, only a handful were fortunate to become Vice Chancellors. Gender Bias deprives even the most brilliant.
In the business organizations, women rarely make it to C-Suite; become CEOs and MDs. In the entire Pharma Industry of Pakistan, there is only one (employee) female CEO & MD at AGP. And she did not rise through Pharma. She was serving in HSBC bank before taking up this position in 2015.
Many more examples can be cited, but I believe the point is made by now.
Gender Bias is at work in all workplaces.
We shall next compare Pakistan to some other countries and discuss the causes of this all-pervasive, omnipresent bias.
To be continued……