IN South Asia’s patriarchal societies, writings by women giving their perspective on sociopolitical issues in the early 20th century are not easily available. Diaries are even rarer. Happily, we now have a valuable addition to this genre. It is a diary introducing us to the views of a 24-year-old woman from Hyderabad Deccan, who went to England for further studies. It was my privilege to have a trained preforming artist, Shama Askari, read it out to me.
SUICIDES by young men and women have been periodically reported from Gilgit-Baltistan (GB). Authentic figures are not available in the absence of scientific surveys and forensic facilities, which allows ‘honour’ killings to be masked as suicide. Nevertheless, the suicide rate in this region is, arguably, higher than the average in Pakistan (8.9 per 100,000).
IT goes to the credit of gender rights leader Bindiya Rana that Pakistan is counted among the 20-odd states to have given legal recognition to the ‘third sex’ — non-binary people. They were counted in Pakistan’s 2017 census and are entitled to ID cards. Conservative Pakistan can now be regarded as enlightened in the matter of gender legalities — but not in terms of transgender people’s acceptance and inclusiveness in society.
I LISTEN to a transgender woman speak and my mind starts to churn.
I keep wondering what I would do if I had a transgender child? Keep her hidden from prying eyes? Hidden from my in-laws, or my own parents for that matter who might insist I send her away? Let my own inhibitions translate into something that my child would see as shame, which would make her hate herself? What would I do if I had to take her to the doctor?
AS Pakistan goes through turbulent times on the political and economic fronts, women sink deeper and deeper into poverty. No one seems to care, least of all those leaders who are responsible for the public chaos, the economic uncertainty and insecurity they have created by their casual stance on serious issues.
LAST week, I went to Lyari to attend the Food and Fun Festival. Organised by the Ilm-o-Hunar School, the event left a positive impression on me as the youth appeared to be enjoying themselves.
Dressed in their Sunday best, they exuded confidence. The performance was delightful but creativity had to substitute for professionalism. Did it really matter, though, if the stage props were improvised and a single microphone was passed around, from actor to actor? Or that the actors were all speaking in Urdu, which the audience fully understood?
MARCH 8 was International Women’s Day and as is now customary the event allows social activists and feminists to focus on ‘gender equality’, the theme for this year. Given the candour of the youth, the discourse now allows for a true debate, which is the essence of democracy and crucial to the empowerment of women.
WE have welcome news on the women’s front. A female judge is expected to break fresh ground. Justice Ayesha Malik, a judge of the Lahore High Court, has been nominated by the Judicial Commission of Pakistan for elevation to the Supreme Court. Her appointment will be formally announced following approval by a bipartisan parliamentary committee.
OUR society seems to have been obsessed for long with the idea of matrimony. Mercifully, the growing trend towards female education has to an extent weakened this obsession — but not in communities still deprived of the benefits of education and enlightenment.
In these underprivileged classes, which constitute the majority, it is a common practice for mothers to start planning their child’s marriage soon after birth. They informally decide who will be whose life partner. Termed ‘baat pukki karna’, the arrangement is irrevocable. The girl’s mother even starts collecting her daughter’s jahez. Obscurantist parents even consider it a sin if the child is not married before puberty.
THE current issue of the Journal of the Pakistan Medical Association carries a supplement sponsored by Pathfinder and titled ‘Keeping the FP promise alive’. This will no doubt be a formidable challenge. A look at the family planning data contained in the supplement gives rise to a sense of hopelessness about the promise ever being kept. In 2012, Pakistan had promised at the family planning conference in London to double the contraceptive prevalence rate to 55 per cent by 2020.We are nowhere close to it.