UN SDG Goal 5 states that, “Gender bias is undermining our social fabric and devalues all of us. It is not just a human rights issue; it is a tremendous waste of the world’s human potential. By denying women equal rights, we deny half the population a chance to live life at its fullest. Political, economic and social equality for women will benefit all the world’s citizens. Together we can eradicate prejudice and work for equal rights and respect for all”. UNICEF defines Gender Equality as “women, men, transgenders, girls and boys must enjoy equal rights, resources, opportunities and protections”. While UN Women Report 2022 states that, “The Sustainable Development Agenda, adopted by the UN Member States in 2015, set a 2030 deadline for the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls. Now, with under 10 years left to meet it, the world is not on track. Amid the intersecting crises of COVID-19, the climate emergency, and rising economic and political insecurity, progress on gender equality has not only failed to move forward but has begun to reverse. Around the world, a growing backlash against women’s rights is threatening even well-established freedoms and protections”.
The nine targets set under SDG5 are 1. End discrimination against women and girls. 2. End all Violence Against and Exploitation of Women and Girls. 3. Eliminate Forced Marriages and Genital Mutilation. 3. Ensure Full Participation in Leadership and Decision-making. 4. Value Unpaid Care and Promote Shared Domestic Responsibilities. 5. Equal Rights to Economic Resources, Property Ownership and Financial Services. 6. Universal Access to Reproductive Health and Rights. 7. Adopt And Strengthen Policies and Enforceable Legislation for Gender Equality. 8. Promote Empowerment of Women Through Technology and 9. Adopt and Strengthen Policies and Enforceable Legislation for Gender Equality.
While the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan states, in Article 3. Elimination of exploitation: “The state shall ensure the Elimination of all forms of exploitation and the gradual fulfilment of the fundamental principle from each according to his ability to each according to his work”. In Article 3. Elimination of exploitation: “The state shall ensure the Elimination of all forms of exploitation and the gradual fulfilment of the fundamental principle from each according to his ability to each according to his work”. In Article 18. Freedom of trade, business or profession: “Subject to such qualifications, if any, as may be provided by law, every citizen shall have the right to enter upon any lawful trade or business”. In Article 23. Provisions as to property: “Every citizen shall have the right to acquire, hold and dispose of the property in any part of Pakistan, subject to Constitution and law of the land”. In Article 24. Protection of Property rights: “No person shall be compulsorily deprived of his property save in accordance with law”. In Article 25. Equality of citizens: “All citizens are equal before the law and are entitled to equal protection of law”. And in Article 34. “Full participation of women in national life”.
The population of the country has reached 230 million people, 49% (112.7 million) are women and girls. About 0.1 million are registered transgender in the country. Pakistan’s SDG Report 2021 indicates that in SDG 5.2.1 Physical Violence Towards Women was 13.6% in Pakistan – 10.3% in Urban Areas and 15.6% in Rural areas. In Punjab –was 10.3%, in Sindh – was 9.4%, in KPK was 23.4%, In Baluchistan – was 34.6%, and in GB – was 4.74%. In 5.5.2 Women in Managerial Positions, on national level indicator shows 4.53%, In Punjab – 6.16%, in Sindh – 1.95%, in KPK –
4.11%, in Baluchistan – 1.16%, in AJK – 8.4%, and in GB – 2.5%.
“Pakistan has one of the highest birth rates of 22 births per 1,000 people. Very few women use any type of birth control in Pakistan, and the surging population can put too much pressure on water and sanitation systems, resulting in millions of unemployed people, and overwhelming health and education systems”. Data released by World Economic Forum in its Gender Gap Report 2022 has ranked pointed out that women in Pakistan do not have equal access to schooling, justice, or inheritance rights. Pakistan along with countries of sub-Sahara Africa is one of 16 countries in the world where secondary school enrolment has a gender gap of greater than 10 percentage points. ‘Health and survival’ of girls and women present an even grimmer picture.
The Report points out that “part of the reason for this gap is the “son preference” in such countries. This means that the natural ratio of male to female births is artificially altered by either aborting female fetuses’ or because of neglect of and lack of care for female infants, resulting in their death before they reach the age of five years”. Women’s participation in paid employment is also very little due to many factors that include lack of opportunities, lack of transport facilities, male domination in decision making and lack of legal and governmental support etc. Rafia Zaki wrote in Dawn, “A few things can be gleaned from the fact that Pakistan always scores poorly on indices related to gender. First, it appears that no one in Pakistan, including many women, seems to care about women’s dismal position. In fact, some educated working women are so harassed by men, their families and society in general that they have no energy left to challenge their detractors. Women lawmakers on quota seats are there because their husband or father or uncle or nephew or some such has had them appointed. These lawmakers have done little to help the situation of women in the country. Most educated women in Pakistan know that unless you have government or family connections that are solid enough to provide protection from harassment and appointments to cushy positions, the entire project of becoming an independent woman is a fantasy.”
In economic terms, what is needed are two skilful hands and an intelligent analytical brain in order to participate fully in the economic uplift of the country in human terms, everybody counts and has to have equal access to law, opportunities and rights. Women become more important because they are also reproducers of human civilization and mothers are responsible as the first informal institution for the upbringing of future generations. If women are healthy and educated in modern technologies, then the child would most probably be healthy, and intelligent and would learn in a better way, how the country and its population are going to survive and flourish in the future.
Most of the socio-economic and political problems in Pakistan are born due to the deprivation of our women of their basic human and economic rights, therefore the country’s current economic and political as well as civic issues are related in principle to this gender imbalance and callousness of the male-dominated society about its women and children in all levels of the country’s present and future directions. This is the time to remedy our past ills and care for our mothers, sisters, daughters and wives as our equals if we want to be part of the responsible international community of nations by 2030.