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Gender equality: Myth or reality?

Imagine a world where women are physically assaulted, mentally tortured and sexually abused. Imagine a world where they are remorselessly humiliated, ruthlessly killed and shamelessly deprived of socio-economic and political rights. It would be a world of nothing but a fiery picture of hell on the earth.
While the world has witnessed remarkable advancements in women’s rights and opportunities, the depth of inequality remains profound. The gender pay gap, underrepresentation of women in leadership roles, and the persistently high rates of violence against women all attest to the lingering disparities that plague our societies. Discrimination and stereotypes, often subtle and insidious, continue to undermine the pursuit of genuine gender equality. In other words, they perpetuate a cycle of inequality that refuses to be shattered.
The most distressful thing is that women hold half of the sky, but their representation in parliaments across the world is just 25% which is very minimal in comparison to their male counterparts. On account of little political participation, women become helpless to raise the voice of hapless women. Additionally, they are handicapped in the chains of patriarchal culture and conventional mindsets that resist them to make headways in different domains. Without any iota of doubt, women lag far behind than those of men in all spheres of life; ranging from socio-economic arena to religion-political areas.
Despite The United Nations has set the agenda for all countries to achieve gender equality by 2030, yet it seems an elusive ideal for many countries. Currently, on a list of 153 countries, Pakistan ranks 151, which is very dismal in this regard, highlighting the severity of the problem. It is no wonder that Pakistan has been ranked the sixth most dangerous country for women.
Adding insult to the injury, The World Economic Forum recently released the Global Gender Gap Report, 2022. The report quantifies how big the gender gap is in areas including educational attainment, economic participation, health and political empowerment. The news is predictably awful. Pakistan is placed second last. Out of the 146 countries ranked on the index, Pakistan is at 145, doing marginally better than Afghanistan.
Contrary to this, it would be right to say that no country can reach to the glory of success unless it’s women are protected and empowered. Empowering women play an integral part for the progress and prosperity of a nation, however, it seems a distant dream in the course of modern world where women face myriad problems in the form of deep-rooted practices of honor killings, ingrained traditions of child marriages, unbridled practice of acid throwing and domestic violence.
Looking through Pakistani lens, the journey ahead seems rougher, tougher and more tortuous. Doubtlessly, the plight of woman is deplorable in Pakistan. It is saddening to note that a lonely woman, traveling from Lahore to Peshawar motorway was brutally attacked by some misogynistic elements of the society. Moreover, she was tortured and brutally raped before the eyes of her innocent children.
It was pitiable and miserable situation because she cried for help, but the law enforcement agencies were not present on the sight. What is worst in this tortuous episode was to blame the victim as certain lawful authorities blamed her for being alone at night which is clearly testament to the fact that gender equality seems an elusive aspiration in Pakistani society.
According to media reports, there were over 51,000 cases of violence against women reported between January 2011 and June 2017. The conviction rate in such cases was quite low at about 2.5 per cent. The patriarchal mindset of our society is rightly criticised as we are not progressing towards gender equality in any meaningful way.
Moreover, the story behind economic participation and opportunity is equally dismal if not literally deadly. The top performers in this category include countries like Burundi and Barbados all of which have very small gender gaps in terms of economic participation. Whereas, Afghanistan scores the lowest in this category and Pakistan is only one notch better and only 12pc women happen to be in ministerial positions and, among parliament members, their share stands at 20pc. This showcases the lack of women in leadership and decision-making positions.
Furthermore, albeit woman active participation in Pakistan movement, yet she could not get an olive branch after creation of its country. The deeply ingrained religiously flawed social structure and cultural constraints did not allow her to pursue her objectives as per her own will. Instead some draconian laws were introduced to make her life more miserable. Broadly speaking, since inception of the country, women still not only face discrimination but they also face barriers and biases that hinder their recognition and advancement.
Some questions are looming large whether above mentioned points are not enough to show that empowering women is a distant dream in the society. Does it not hold water that subjugating women have become a norm rather than aberration? Do the stakeholders and officials have turned deaf ears and closed their eyes to see and listen to the woes and sufferings of women?
Can the patriarchal mindset of society be overpowered? Do the state authorities have potential to challenge the stereotypical mindset and regressive thinking? As it is delved deeper into the course of history, the answer to these questions becomes highly critical.
Although some skeptics claim that gender equality is reality, in real terms, the growing harassment of women, unstoppable domestic violence and deep-rooted practices of honor killing depict that gender equality is a myth. In order to turn down the nefarious tides of gender inequality, some affirmative measures are direly needed in true letter and spirit.
To curtail misogynistic elements from the society, there is a dire need of change that can alter the regressive mindset, as the desire of change is itself a good omen. As Bernard Shaw has rightly remarked, “those who cannot change their mind cannot change their anything.”
So, keeping the view point of Shaw, the only road to true gender equality requires ongoing effort to challenge stereotypes, promote diversity, and foster inclusive environments where everyone’s contributions are valued equally.
Curtailing patriarchal system coupled with punishing misogynistic element of the society, encouraging political participation of women, making fair interpretation of religious injunctions, debunking stereotypical culture compound with ensuring awareness in true letter and spirit and empowering women in all and sundry can only open the window of progress and prosperity for women throughout the world.

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