Women’s Rights In Pakistan: Legal Perspectives And Progress


Despite progress, women in Pakistan continue to face numerous challenges in accessing justice and exercising their rights.

In Pakistan, the struggle for women’s rights has a deep-rooted history, marked by the efforts of various activists and movements. From the pre-Independence era to the present day, women have fought for equality, dignity, and security within the patriarchal society of Pakistan.

The journey of women’s rights in Pakistan can be traced back to the early 20th century when pioneering figures like Fatima Jinnah advocated for women’s education and participation in public life.

Legal frameworks play a crucial role in safeguarding and advancing women’s rights. They provide the necessary structure and mechanisms for addressing discrimination, violence and inequalities faced by women in various spheres of life. Laws pertaining to marriage, inheritance, employment and access to education are instrumental in ensuring gender equality and empowerment.

Analysing legal perspectives using terms such as jurisprudence, precedent, and legal doctrine allows for a deeper understanding of how laws evolve and impact women’s rights.

Jurisprudence helps in interpreting laws in the context of societal norms and values, while precedent establishes legal standards through past decisions. Legal doctrine provides the theoretical framework within which laws are interpreted and applied, influencing the course of legal developments over time.

The evolution of women’s rights in Pakistan has been shaped by historical, social, and political factors. During the pre-Independence era, colonial influences led to the codification of laws that often marginalised women, particularly in matters of family and property rights.

However, post-Independence reforms aimed to address these inequalities, with the promulgation of laws such as the Muslim Family Laws Ordinance of 1961, which sought to regulate marriage and divorce proceedings.

Legal doctrines such as stare decisis (precedent) and ratio decidendi (reasoning behind decisions) have played a significant role in shaping legal precedents related to women’s rights in Pakistan.

Additionally, the interpretation of constitutional provisions and legal statutes within the framework of feminist jurisprudence has provided a lens through which gender biases within the legal system can be identified and addressed.

Moreover, international conventions and treaties, such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), have influenced domestic legal frameworks by setting standards for gender equality and women’s rights.

Article 25 of the Constitution of Pakistan guarantees the right to equality and non-discrimination, laying the foundation for gender equality within the legal framework.

Similarly, Article 34 provides for the protection of women’s dignity and security, reflecting the state’s commitment to ensuring the well-being of women. These constitutional provisions are guided by legal principles such as jus cogens (compelling law) and peremptory norms, which establish fundamental rights that cannot be derogated from.

Amendments to the Constitution of Pakistan, such as the Eighteenth Amendment Act, have had implications for women’s rights. While some amendments have sought to strengthen legal protections for women, others have faced legal challenges and judicial interpretations regarding their compatibility with constitutional guarantees.

The judiciary plays a crucial role in upholding these guarantees and ensuring their effective implementation.

The Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) provide the procedural framework for addressing crimes against women in Pakistan. Sections such as CrPC Section 154 (Registration of complaints) and CrPC Section 164 (Recording of statements before a magistrate) establish the process for initiating criminal proceedings.

Furthermore, CrPC Section 375 (Definition of rape) and CrPC Section 376 (Punishment for rape offenses) outline legal provisions specifically addressing crimes of sexual violence against women.

Landmark legal cases and judicial decisions have played a significant role in advancing women’s rights in Pakistan. These include cases addressing issues such as inheritance rights, domestic violence, and access to education and employment.

Legislative reforms and policy initiatives, such as the enactment of laws prohibiting honor killings and workplace harassment, have further enhanced legal protections for women.

Despite progress, women in Pakistan continue to face numerous challenges in accessing justice and exercising their rights. Cultural and societal obstacles, including patriarchal norms and discriminatory practices, hinder women’s participation in the legal system.

Additionally, enforcement gaps and shortcomings in implementing legal provisions effectively pose significant barriers to achieving gender equality and justice for women.

To address these challenges, it is essential to strengthen legal frameworks through amendments and legislative initiatives that prioritize gender equality and women’s rights. Enhancing legal literacy and access to legal aid for marginalised women is crucial in empowering them to navigate the legal system effectively.

Moreover, advocating for institutional reforms to address systemic barriers, such as gender bias within the judiciary and law enforcement agencies, is necessary to ensure equal rights and opportunities for women in Pakistan.__The Friday Times Pakistan