Written by: Emma Alam
Gender studies, Discrimination and Development have now become global issues. Women rights, and their emancipation is the major concern in this era; much has been said and written regarding this, several feminist movements are working for this purpose, but on grass root level the situation hasn’t changed yet. Culture and means of communication play a vital role in enlightenment and awareness of the basic women rights.
There are certain cultural hindrances and social taboos in our society, which have deprived women of many rights and as a result women are unable to achieve progress and prosperity. Lack of education and general misconception regarding women rights are major hurdles in the emancipation of women, thus this bleak ignorance nurtures the seed of violence watered by suppression, male chauvinism, and injustice. Majority of women are unaware of their own rights. It’s not the religion but the social fabric and false norms, which bring discrimination between man and woman, make dominant the former and deprive the latter. The Quran in particular is addressed to all Muslims, and for the most part it does not differentiate between male and female. Man and woman, it says, “were created of a single soul,” and are moral equals in the sight of God, Discrimination exists at domestic level, when parents hesitate to invest money on their daughter’s education and career, they give preference to the male child over of the female child and this has become an unfortunate part of our culture. General misconception regarding their liberty, that after higher education girls will not obey their parents and their code of conduct, they will take their own decisions in each matter of life wothout giving any heed to the decisions and wishes of their parents.
Uneven socio economic status of women is another barrier, inequity is a common phenomenon. Women are rendered incompetent to establish their own social and economic status because they do not get family support in career building. They have to surrender their desires, goals and ambitions at the threshold of this society. Years ago ‘she’ used to be buried live in ground soon after her birth; today she has to burry her soul alongwith all of her yearnings, dreams and emotions under the soil of taboos, social restraints and boundaries. Many moons ago, she used to become the victim of cultural and traditional inhuman customs, like ‘satti’, ‘honor killing’ and forced marriages, even today she is striving for her recognition, dignity and status. In our cultural setup a woman is supposed to be the ultimate follower of the virtual textbook of morals. She is born to obey, not to question. Her accomplishment lies in leading an “exemplary life.” She is submissive to men, tradition, and honour. Women are encouraged only to perform domestic duties. Procreation, obedience and meekness are considered to be the basic traits of any “good woman.” Family decides the course of her life, eventually her destiny. Therefore she is bound to obey her parents and husband in the matters of education, marriage even reproductive rights are often determined on her part by those around her, those who prefer their own opinion and want to take decisions themselves are considered rebellious, unruly and often morally wrong. A streak of independence prompt chastisement and punishment from the family or system, this involves more often than not violence, ostracism and at times, murder. The retaliatory action is aimed at teaching women a lesson and discourages the future generation from challenging orthodoxy.
Role of women is very important in the progress of any civilization, and there is a strong need to make her aware of her independent status, she must be self-reliant and financially strong. There should be no compromise on her education, without which empowerment is not possible. Another cultural hindrance faced by woman is the encroachment upon her essential rights; she is not given her due share in property although our religion Islam does give, her consent on marriage is not considered to be essential, that is against our religion, rather it has become the part of culture that she cannot make decisions independently. The various modes of communication can play an effective role in spreading awareness, but our media portrays her as mere source of amusement. She has become the symbol of glitz and glamour; her appearance is inevitable whether it be a magazine or an ad film. All that stuff has concealed her inner personality and hidden potentials; she has enough talent and can achieve any goal if provided with equal opportunities. But unfortunately our culture relegates her to a secondary position; confines her within four walls, compels her to perform the same traditional domestic tasks and she must obey all social restraints and limitations. She can’t raise voice against injustice, if she does so; we call her wayward and radical. There is need to change and reform our culture, unnecessary taboos and restrictions should come to an end.
This change cannot take place overnight, rather would require a gradual process through deep insight and study, the mechanisms of cultural change are Innovation, Diffusion and Acculturation; innovation occurs when someone within a society discovers something new that is then accepted by other members of the society. While diffusion is the borrowing of something from another ethnic group, and acculturation refers to replacement of the traits of one culture with those of another. By making hypothesis, collecting essential material and data, examining it through experiments, further judging and analyzing the findings, we can embark on new aspects and dimensions, can find out solutions. There are particular areas, which need attention and improvement through proper communication like better environment for women, whether it be at home or at the workplace, equal opportunities of education, employment opportunities according to their abilities, in order to strengthen their financial condition production of booklets on credit and saving schemes should be introduced. For solving their health problems, awareness programs through media can be launched. Effective methods of dissemination of information regarding women’s legal rights can be introduced by promotion of basic rights through policy making and establishing a legislative watch unit.
*Editor’s note: The opinions and views expressed by the author above are her own and do not necessarily match those of PINK Magazine.