What are the key issues facing women's rights in Pakistan?

By azamqadri@78600 - last updated 3 months ago

Greetings, curious readers! As you delve into the complex landscape of Women in Pakistan, it’s crucial to understand the critical challenges that women face in this country. From limited access to education and healthcare to forced marriages and domestic violence, Pakistani women encounter numerous hurdles when it comes to securing their basic human rights. The patriarchal societal structure and discriminatory laws further exacerbate the situation, making it imperative to address these pressing issues in order to achieve gender equality and justice for women in Pakistan.

Historical overview of women’s rights in Pakistan

Before delving into the current issues facing women’s rights in Pakistan, it is crucial to understand the historical context of the struggle for equality. A seminal work on this topic is ‘Women’s Rights as Human Rights: The Case of Pakistan’, which provides a comprehensive overview of the challenges and advancements in women’s rights in the country. You can access the full text of the report here.

The struggle for women’s rights in early Pakistan

During the early years of Pakistan’s formation in 1947, the struggle for women’s rights focused on gaining basic civil liberties and political representation. Women faced significant barriers in accessing education, healthcare, and employment opportunities. The passage of the Qawwam ordinance in 1961, based on Islamic Sharia law, further restricted their rights, reinforcing patriarchal norms and limiting their autonomy. However, women’s rights activists fiercely resisted these regressive measures, laying the groundwork for the future feminist movement in the country.

Changes in women’s rights over the decades

Over the decades, there have been significant changes in women’s rights in Pakistan. The introduction of laws such as the Protection Against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act in 2010 and the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act in 2011 have provided legal and institutional frameworks for protecting women from gender-based violence. Additionally, the increased participation of women in politics and the workforce has been a positive development. However, pervasive gender-based violence, discrimination, and limited access to education and healthcare continue to pose significant challenges for women’s rights in Pakistan. It is evident that while progress has been made, there are still formidable obstacles to overcome in the fight for gender equality and women’s rights in the country.

Current key issues facing women’s rights in Pakistan

Assuming you want to understand the current challenges facing women’s rights in Pakistan, it’s important to examine the key issues that continue to affect the lives of women in the country. From access to education to legal and social barriers to employment, and the prevalence of gender-based violence and honor killings, women in Pakistan face a myriad of challenges in their pursuit of equality and empowerment.

Access to education and literacy rates

When it comes to access to education, women in Pakistan still face significant barriers. Despite progress in recent years, there is still a significant gender gap in literacy rates, with only 45% of women in Pakistan being literate compared to 69% of men. Limited access to schools, cultural norms that prioritize boys’ education, and early marriage are some of the factors that contribute to this disparity, hindering women’s ability to access quality education and pursue opportunities for personal and professional growth.

Legal and social barriers to women’s employment

Women in Pakistan also face legal and social barriers to employment, with discriminatory laws and traditional gender roles often limiting their ability to participate in the workforce. While there have been efforts to promote women’s participation in the formal economy, many women still face discrimination in the workplace, limited access to job opportunities, and stereotypes that dictate the type of work they are allowed to pursue. Additionally, lack of support for working mothers and harassment in the workplace further exacerbate these challenges, making it difficult for women to achieve economic independence and pursue fulfilling careers.

Gender-based violence and honor killings

Perhaps one of the most pressing and dangerous issues facing women in Pakistan is gender-based violence and honor killings. Women and girls continue to be subjected to physical, sexual, and psychological violence, often within the confines of their own homes. Furthermore, the practice of honor killings remains prevalent in certain parts of the country, with women being killed for allegedly bringing dishonor to their families. Despite efforts to strengthen legal protections for women, the enforcement of these laws remains inconsistent, leaving many women vulnerable to abuse and violence.

Efforts and initiatives to address women’s rights in Pakistan

Keep in mind that there have been several efforts and initiatives in Pakistan to address the ongoing issues surrounding women’s rights. From government and legal reforms to the work of NGOs and grassroots advocacy, there is a growing push to bring about positive change in the country.

Government and legal reforms

The government of Pakistan has taken steps to address women’s rights through legal reforms. In recent years, several laws have been amended to provide greater protection and support for women. These legal reforms have aimed to address issues such as domestic violence, honor killings, and discrimination in the workplace. The passage of the Protection against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act in 2010 was a significant step forward in addressing workplace discrimination and harassment. Additionally, the Criminal Law (Amendment) (Offences in the Name or on Pretext of Honor) Act 2016 strengthened the legal framework to combat honor killings. Despite these reforms, challenges persist in the implementation and enforcement of these laws, and there is still progress to be made in ensuring women’s rights are protected at all levels of society.

NGO and grassroots advocacy

NGOs and grassroots advocacy groups have played a crucial role in addressing women’s rights in Pakistan. Organizations such as the Aurat Foundation and Shirkat Gah have been at the forefront of advocating for women’s rights and gender equality. They have worked to raise awareness, provide support services, and push for policy changes to address issues such as gender-based violence, access to education, and economic empowerment. Through their efforts, these organizations have been able to provide vital support to women and girls across the country. Their work is crucial in challenging societal norms and practices that perpetuate discrimination and violence against women. However, these groups often face challenges such as funding constraints, limited resources, and opposition from conservative elements within society.

Overall, efforts and initiatives to address women’s rights in Pakistan are making progress, but there is still much work to be done. The government and legal reforms are a positive step towards providing greater protection and support for women, but implementation and enforcement remain key challenges. The work of NGOs and grassroots advocacy groups is essential in raising awareness and providing support services, but they face obstacles in the form of limited resources and societal opposition.

It is important to support and amplify the efforts of these organizations to ensure that women and girls in Pakistan can live free from discrimination, violence, and inequality.


So, as you can see, there are several key issues facing women’s rights in Pakistan that need to be addressed. From gender-based violence to lack of access to education and healthcare, women in Pakistan continue to face significant challenges in achieving equality. It is important to advocate for legislative and policy changes that protect and promote the rights of women, as well as to challenge societal norms and attitudes that perpetuate gender inequality. By raising awareness and taking action, you can help contribute to the advancement of women’s rights in Pakistan and around the world.


Q: What are the key issues facing women’s rights in Pakistan?

A: The key issues facing women’s rights in Pakistan include limited access to education, lack of economic opportunities, gender-based violence, and discriminatory laws and cultural practices.

Q: How does limited access to education affect women’s rights in Pakistan?

A: Limited access to education perpetuates gender inequality in Pakistan, as it restricts women’s ability to pursue higher education and gain meaningful employment. This lack of education also leaves women more vulnerable to exploitation and limits their ability to advocate for their rights.

Q: What are the main discriminatory laws and cultural practices that affect women’s rights in Pakistan?

A: Discriminatory laws, such as the Hudood Ordinances and the Qisas and Diyat laws, disproportionately impact women in Pakistan. Additionally, cultural practices such as honor killings, forced marriages, and domestic violence further undermine women’s rights and perpetuate gender-based violence.