Women as Agents of Change: Case Study of Pakistan




Kazepis, Musarrat

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There exists a conflict between the constitutional commitment to equality and the politicization of Islam in both the official law and the traditional law. Although the fundamental rights chapter of the Constitution guarantees equality before the law, the pursuit of gender equality has often been sacrificed to religious-­‐cultural assertions that define and often limit women’s status. Culturally, women are viewed inferior to men, due to deep-­‐rooted mores and customs. These sentiments mirror into the reality of daily life where women seem to be bound by a different set of social and legal rules. In Pakistan, as elsewhere, there exists a gendered division between the public and private spheres, which has greatly assisted to shield and protect abusive, violent practices. The local context is therefore a motivating factor for the women’s movement in Pakistan. The pursuit of gender equality can thrive best if women are guaranteed of an equal right to participate in the definition of fundamental rights and freedoms implemented into the legal processes, and are also actively in the process of the renegotiation of religious and cultural norms. This study seeks to contextualize and analyze the various representative discourses in order to come to an understanding of the possible cultural, religious, and historical reasons that create the circumstances for a family member to kill or hurt a female member, often in the name and sake of family honor. Honor crimes and the laws and procedures around honor killings will serve as a central study for this thesis, but the related violent act of acid throwing will also be considered in the scope of physical violence. Pakistan is in a state of flux, and women are playing an increasingly active role in the country’s social, political, and legal transformation. The judiciary could perform an important role in bringing justice to the victims of gender violence such as honor crimes, and in curbing crimes of physical violence against women. Within Pakistan’s civil society, women activists are advocating the implementation of strategies to limit gender violence, actively engaging in a process to build a judicial framework that eliminates the inequality and discrimination against women based on religious and cultural norms that contribute to the perpetuation of gender violence.



Pakistan's penal code, Gender violence, Pakistani Constitution, Cultural violence, Discrimination against women, Women agency