Socio-culture formation of Pakistan society
with reference to women Placement
The society and culture of Pakistan comprises numerous diverse cultures and ethnic groups: the Punjabis, Kashmiris,
Sindhis in east, Muhajirs, Makrani in the south; Baloch and Pashtun in the west; and the ancient Dardic, Wakhi and
Burusho communities in the north. These Pakistani cultures have been greatly influenced by many of the surrounding
countries' cultures, such as the Turkic peoples, Persian, Afghan, and Indians of South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle
In ancient times, Pakistan was a major cultural hub. The region has formed a distinct cultural unit within the main
cultural complex of South Asia, the Middle East and Central Asia from the earliest times, and is analogous to Turkey's
position in Eurasia. There are differences in culture among the different ethnic groups in matters such as dress, food,
and religion, especially where pre-Islamic customs differ from Islamic practices. Their cultural origins also reveal
influences from far afield, including Tibet, Nepal, India and eastern Afghanistan. All groups show varying degrees of
influence from Persia, Turkestan and Hellenistic Greece. Pakistan was the first region of South Asia to receive the full
impact of Islam and has developed a distinct Islamic identity, historically different from areas further west.
Rights of Women according to the Constitution of Pakistan:
Articles8 to Article 28 of the 1973 Constitutiondescribethe Fundamental Rightswhichare tobe available to
all citizens,womenaswell asmenwherevertheymaybe aswell asall people temporarilyorpermanently in
Pakistan. However, the freedoms guaranteed can be curtailed or taken away by the government on the
grounds of the sovereignty or integrity of Pakistan, maintenance of public order, public morality. .
Article 32, 34, 37 and 38 talks about women’s right:
Special representation shall be given to women in local government institutions (i.e., local bodies).
Steps shall be taken to ensure full participation of women in all spheres of national life.
The State shall protect marriage, the family, the mother and the child. make sure women are not employed in
vocations unsuited to their sex, and that working women get maternity benefits.
Secure well-being of the people, irrespective of sex.
Provide basic necessities of life, irrespective of sex.
If a woman is raped, one of the conditions of the law requires that woman must provide for four pious Muslim
witnesses for seeing the crime. Let for a moment condone that part of the law. But, the worst cruelty of the law
is that in case of failing to provide witnesses, the rape victim will be charged of fornication; the punishment for
which is stoning to death.
Women in Pakistan:
The status of women in Pakistan varies considerably across classes, regions, and the rural/urban divide due to uneven
socioeconomic development. The Pakistani women of today enjoy a better status than most Muslim and Middle Eastern
women. However, on an average, the women's situation men is one of systemic gender subordination, although there
have been attempts by the government and enlightened groups to elevate the status of women in Pakistani society
Division of Labor by Gender
The majority of Pakistani women are homemakers and men are generally referred to as the breadwinners. The largest
percentage of working women in Pakistan is nurses or teachers. Women are represented in government as ministers in
Parliament and ambassadors. Benazir Bhutto was the first female prime minister and served from 1988 to 1990.
The Status of Women and Men
The women of Pakistan are regular voters as are the men and women also are regular attendees at colleges. Islam
gives women rights to child custody, to alimony, and to inheritance, and they also have the right to conduct business
and enter any profession. Women are engaged in agriculture production and the services sector. Women judges have
been appointed to four high courts as well as several lower courts and a 10 percent quota was established for women to
become police officers.
There are growing numbers of violent crimes against or involving women and the government has introduced the
concept of women police stations, which have been opened in Rawalpindi, Karachi, and Abbottabad in the North West
A number of computer training centres have been established for women and the government has opened "women
development centres" that specialize in training community development workers in family planning, hygiene,
sanitation, adult literacy, community organization, and legal rights.
Marriage and kinship:
Muslim marriage involves a nikah , a formal legal document signed by the bride and groom in front of several witnesses;
this establishes that the couple is legally married. Wedding customs vary somewhat among provinces, but the Muslim
marriage is seen as uniting both families as well as the couple. Each tribal group also has certain ceremonies that are an
important part of the marriages within that group.
Women have inheritance rights in Pakistan, so that inheritance benefits can go to women and children after the death
of the husband and father.
A Muslim marriage is seen as uniting the families of both the bride and groom, so the kin group is expanded after a
marriage. In some tribes there can be neither a cross-cultural marriage nor a dual ethnic one, so therefore the kin
groups are and basically remain identical ethnically and culturally.
Child Rearing and Education
In February 1998 the prime minister announced a draft for a new education policy from 1998 to 2010, to increase the
number of elementary and secondary schools to meet the projected enrollment of twelve million children, including
about six million female children in the primary schools by 2003. The draft also suggested establishment of community-
based conformal schools to fill the school gap and to help minimize the cost of primary schools. The new education
policy also proposed training about thirty-six thousand teachers each year from 1998 to 2003 to maintain a pupil-
teacher ratio of forty to one, with most new teachers to be females. A reduction in military spending was also proposed
so funds could be channeled toward countrywide primary education for all children.
Higher education is seen as having an important role in preparing an individual for a successful career. Women are also
free to get higher education. There are nearly one thousand colleges and universities located throughout almost the
Women’s dress code
Although the women's dress varies depending on region, class and occasion, shalwar kameez is principal garment worn
by Pakistani women. Ghararas (a loose divided skirt worn with a blouse) and lehengas were very common earlier, but
now they are worn mostly at weddings. According to the teachings of Islam pardah or hrjab is compulsory for every
Muslim woman. But very few Pakistani women wear the hijab or burqa in public and the degree to which they choose to
cover varies. Some Pakistani women who do not wear the hijab; they may wear the dupatta or chadar instead.
A Sari is a formal dress worn on special occasions by some mainly urban women. General Zia ulHaq's under his
government branded the sari as an "unIslamic" form of dress. The sari is now making a comeback in fashionablecircles.
Western garments such as T-shirts and Jeans are common amongst young urban women.
In Pakistan, the women's access to property, education, employment etc. remains considerably lower compared to
men's. Women have a low percentage of participation in society outside of the family.
Few years before The educational status of Pakistani women is among the lowest in the world. The literacy rate for
urban women is more than five times the rate for rural women. The school dropout rate among girls is very high (almost
50 percent), the educational achievements of female students are higher as compared with male students at different
levels of education. But now the Education in Pakistan for women is improving rapidly. In the Lahore city there are total
46 public colleges out of which 26 are female colleges and if we talk about the rest of 20 colleges some of them are offer
co-education. Similarly the public universities of Pakistan has female enrollment more than boys.
Although women play an active role in Pakistan's economy, their contribution has been grossly underreported in some
censuses and surveys. The 1991-92 Labor Force Survey revealed that only about 16% of women aged 10 years and over
were in the labor force. The World Bank's reports of 1997 stated that women constituted only 28% of the country's labor
force. According to the 1999 report by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, only two percent of Pakistani women
participate in the formal sector of employment. However, the 1980 agricultural census stated that the women's
participation rate in agriculture was 73%. The 1990-1991 Pakistan Integrated Household Survey indicated that the
female labor force participation rate was 45% in rural areas and 17% the urban areas. Pakistani women play a major
role in agricultural production, livestock raising and cottage industries.
Land and property rights:
Around 90% of the Pakistani households are headed by men and most female-headed households belong to the poor
strata of the society
Women lack ownership of productive resources. Despite women's legal rights to own and inherit property from their
families, there are very few women who have access and control over these resources.
Crimes against women:
The violence against women in Pakistan is a major problem. Feminists and women's groups in Pakistan have criticized
the Pakistani government and its leaders for whitewashing the persecution of women and trying to suppress
information about their plight in the international arena. Skepticism and biased attitudes against women's complaints
of violence are common among prosecutors, police officers and medico legal doctors in Pakistan. According to reports
from 1990s, such complaints often face delayed/mishandled processing and inadequate/improper investigations.
Child marriage/ (Vani)
Although the Child Marriages Restraint Act makes it illegal for girls under the age of 16 to be married, instances of child
marriages can be found. Vani is a child marriage custom followed in tribal areas and the Punjab province. The young
girls are forcibly married off in order to resolve the feuds between different clans; the Vani can be avoided if the clan of
the girl agrees to pay money, called Deet, to other clans.Swara, Paitlikkhi and AddoBaddo are similar tribal and rural
customs that often promote marriage of girls in their early teenage years.
Wattasatta is a tribal custom in which brides are traded between two clans. In order for you to marry off your son, you
must also have a daughter to marry off in return. If there is no sister to exchange in return for a son's spouse, a cousin,
or a distant relative can also do. Even though Islamic law requires that both partners explicitly consent to marriage,
women are often forced into marriages arranged by their fathers or tribal leaders.
A majority of the victims of honor killings are women and the punishments meted out often tend to be lenient.
The practice of summary killing of a person suspected of an illicit liaison is known as karokari in Sindh and Balochistan.
In December 2004,the Government passed a bill that made karokari punishable under the same penal provisions as
murder. Many cases of honor killings have been reported against women who marry against their family's wishes, who
seek divorce or who have been raped.
Marriage to Quran
In some parts of Sindh, the practice of marrying a woman to Quran is prevalent among landlords, although this practise
is alien to Islam and has no religious basis. The practice is often used by men to keep and grab the land of their sisters
Rape is one of the most common crimes against women but grossly underreported due to the shame attached to the
victim. Many cases of sexual harassment and acid attacks have also been reported.
Marital rape is not recognized as a criminal offense in Pakistani law. Many cases of rape in police custody have also
been reported. According to Report of the Commission of Inquiry for Women (1997),70 percent of women in police
stations were subjected to sexual and physical violence.
Trafficking of women is on the rise in Pakistan. Foreign women from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Myanmar are
brought to Pakistan and sold.
Many cases of bride burning due to dowry issues have been reported in Pakistan. The wife is typically doused with
kerosene, gasoline, or other flammable liquid, and set alight, leading to death by fire.
In some cases, accidents are engineered (such as the tampering of a kitchen stove to cause victim's death) or the victims
are set ablaze, claimed to be yet another accident or suicide. According to a 1999 report, of the sixty "bride-burning"
cases that made it to the prosecution stage (though 1,600 cases were actually reported), only two resulted in
convictions. However dowry abuse cases are low after 2001.
Domestic violence is not explicitly prohibited in Pakistani domestic law and most acts of domestic violence are
encompassed by the Qisas and Diyat Ordinance. The police and judges often tend to treat domestic violence as a non-
justiciable, private or family matter or, an issue for civil courts, rather than criminal courts.
A 1987 study conducted by the Women's Division and another study by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in
1996 suggested that domestic violence takes place in approximately 80 percent of the households in the country.
Domestic violence occurs in forms of beatings, sexual violence or torture, mutilation, acid attacks and burning the victim
Acid throwing is a form of violent assault. Perpetrators of these attacks throw acid at their victims (usually at their
faces), burning them, and damaging skin tissue, often exposing and sometimes dissolving the bones. The consequences
of these attacks include blindness and permanent scarring of the face and body. These attacks are most common in
Cambodia, Afghanistan, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and other nearby countries. According to TaruBahl and M.H. Syed,
80% of victims of these acid attacks are female and almost 40% are under 18 years of age.
Women in the Islamic Fundamentalist parts of Pakistan, such as the northern reaches around the Swat Valley, who do
not cover their faces risk being attacked. The men’s theory is if the women won’t hide their supposedly 'alluring faces',
then they will be made 'too ugly' to be 'alluring to men'.
Gender roles in Islam
The Quran expresses two main views on the role of women. It both stresses the equality of women and men before God
in terms of their religious duties (i.e. belief in God and his messenger, praying, fasting, paying zakat (charity), making
hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca/ Medina)) and places them "under" the care of men (i.e. men are financially responsible And
protectors for their wives, sisters, mothers). In one place it states: "Men are the maintainers and protectors of women,
because Allah hath made the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend of their property (for the support
of women)." The Koran explains that men and women are equal in creation and in the afterlife. Surah an-Nisa' 4:1 states
that men and women are created from a single soul (nafswahidah). One person does not come before the other, one is
not superior to the other, and one is not the derivative of the other. A woman is not created for the purpose of a man.
Rather, they are both created for the mutual benefit of each other.[Quran 4:34]
Nonetheless sexism against women, such as a unfair lack of employment or poor education, remains endemic in the
more Islamic Fundamentalist parts of Pakistan, such as the northern reaches around the Swat Valley.
Marriage and divorce issues:
Often, inter-caste marriages in Pakistan are met with violence against the women in the families involved. Women from
low Pakistani Castes who try to get an education are looked down upon and sometimes attacked, the case of Ghazala
Shaheen being the most infamous one which prompted international out cry.
The average age of women for marriage has increased from 16.9 years in 1951 to 22.5 years in 2005. A majority of
women are married to their close relatives, first and second cousins. Only 37 percent of married women are not related
to their spouses before marriage. The divorce rate in Pakistan is extremely low due to the social stigma attached to it.
Case Studies of 'Honour Killing'
Afsheen Musarrat, a computer science graduate, reportedly wanted to marry her maternal cousin and classmate
Hassan Mustafa. Afsheen and Hassan allegedly had solemnised a secret nikkah (engagement ceremony) before her
parents purportedly married her forcibly to her paternal cousin Nouman, a GDpilot of the Pakistan Air Force based at
Shorkot. Afsheen allegedly eloped with Hassan on Nov. 1, 2003, and took refuge with a family friend in Rawalpindi.
Relatives managed to bring her back on Nov. 8 after assuring the family with which she had been staying that her will
would be honoured and she would be not be harmed.
On Nov. 10, Afsheen died in her father's house in Gulshan-i-Mehar Colony in Multan. Her family buried her the next day
in the ancestral village of Marri Sahu in Kabirwala tehsil in Khanewal District, declaring her death to be by natural
causes.An advocate of the local chapter of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), Rashid Rehman, filed an
application with the Gulghast police station and expressed fear that she might have been killed for the sake of honour.
The Multan police initially did not attach much importance to the case. According to a HRCP report, the police
discouraged the rights activists, arguing that under the qisas (revenge) and diyat (compensation) laws action in such
cases without the consent of the heirs was not possible. The Multan police took action only when President Pervez
Musharraf ordered a thorough inquiry into Afsheen's death.
A post-mortem conducted on the body of Afsheen after her exhumation on Nov. 24 confirmed that she been tortured
and strangled.Sources in the police department said that prime suspects in the Afsheen case were her father Musarrat,
grandfather Allah Ditta and an unidentified number of male relatives. They said though Musarrat Husain had
"confessed" on Nov. 26 to the murder, but the police did not believe that he was the lone killer. They said more than two
people had tortured the deceased and the police were trying to extract their names from Musarrat during interrogation
before producing him in court.
Fazeel Raza Sahu, a former general secretary of the Multan Press Club, was granted interim bail until Dec. 12 by
Additional District and Sessions Judge Falak Sher Faroka on Dec. 6.
The Multan bench of the Lahore High Court had earlier granted interim bail to Afsheen's grandfather, Allah Ditta Sahu,
until Dec. 9. Multan District and Sessions Judge Malik Azharul Haq Awan directed the police authorities on Dec. 6 to
produce Musarrat Sahu before the court on Dec. 8. Otherwise, he might order that a case be registered against the
Afsheen's brother Arsalan filed a habeas corpus petition with the district and sessions judge for the recovery of his
father.Fazeel Sahu claimed in a press statement that police were "victimising" him because he used to expose
wrongdoings of law enforcers through his "bold reporting." He claimed that on Nov. 12 he received a call on his cell
phone about the death of his cousin's daughter Afsheen when he was on the way to his office. He sought a leave from
his office and went to Marri Sahu to attend Afsheen's last rites. He heard whispers about the mysterious death of the girl
but ignored them because he was a relative of the bereaved family.
A few days later the police summoned his uncle Allah Ditta and cousin Musarrat for questioning into the mysterious
death of Afsheen. Fazeel further said that he accompanied his uncle and cousin in a meeting with the Multan district
police officer (DPO) and managed to secure "relief" for them.
Later he learned from some police officers that his rivals wanted to implicate him in Afsheen's murder. He had no option
but to go into hiding until securing pre-arrest bail.Meanwhile, a protest rally organised by the Awaz Foundation was
staged in front of the local press club on Dec. 6 to condemn "honour killings."
On Dec. 7, the local police produced the father of Afsheen before a duty magistrate and sought his seven-day physical
remand. The authorities believe that the crime was committed by more than one person and are now looking for the
murderer's accomplices. They claim though they have made little progress. The provincial government needs to note this
attitude of the police, for it seems that they are more interested in shielding than arresting the culprits.
It must also be noted that "honour killings" in Pakistan have increased in the past few years. In 2002,there were 290
cases while in 2003,by September, the figure exceeded 300. It can be said that this increase can partly be attributed to
the fact that these cases are being reported more than in the past. What is also obvious is that primitive customs and
traditions still remain deep-rooted in Pakistan. Part of the problem is the indifferent attitude of the police to these
crimes. The result is that, except in cases in which the HRCP becomes involved or the press takes an active interest in
reporting and following-up on certain incidents of murder, the perpetrators in many cases remain free and go
The status of women in Pakistan varies considerably across classes, regions, and the rural/urban divide due to uneven
socioeconomic development and the impact of tribal, feudal, and capitalist social formations on women. The majority of
Pakistani women are homemakers, and men are generally referred to as the breadwinners. The women of Pakistan are
regular voters as are the men. In my view in some parts of the Pakistan women are enjoying every freedom and their
rights and in some they’re not. In Pakistan such violence against women are also seen like Honour killing, Marriage to
Quran etc. Our religion Islam has properly prescribed the rights and duties of the women and their share in the property
and their right in choosing a spouse. Pakistan has four provinces and their cultures are different and their norms also
related to women. Our Government had taken steps to empower the women but it depend on the society do they
accept all these changes to empower the women.
Lewis, J. J. (n.d.). Status of Women & the Women's Movement. Retrieved 12 14, 2011,from ABOUT.COM:
WEEK, N. (2011). 100 Women Who Shake Pakistan. KARACHI: NEWS WEEK.
WOMEN STUDIES. (n.d.). Retrieved 12 14, 2011, from PAKISTAN JOURNAL: http://www.pakistanwomenstudies.com/
Zahra, S. (2005, 10 10). Women in Pakistan - Victims of the social and economic desecration. Retrieved 12 14, 2011,
from IN DEFENCE OF MARXISM: http://www.marxist.com/women-pakistan-victims-of-desecration.htm
CNN.com, Nov. 29, 2003; Dawn, Dec. 8, 2003; Reuters, Dec. 11, 2003