Defying Marginalization: Emergence of Women’s Organizations and the Resistance Movement in Pakistan: A Historical Overview
women’s rights in Pakistan
Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
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AbstractIn the wake of Pakistani dictator General-Zia-ul-Haq’s Islamization process (1977-1988), the country experienced an unprecedented tilt towards religious fundamentalism. This initiated judicial transformations that brought in rigid Islamic Sharia laws that impacted women’s freedoms and participation in the public sphere, and gender-specific curbs and policies on the pretext of implementing a religious identity. This suffocating environment that eroded women’s rights in particular through a recourse to politicization of religion also saw the emergence of equally strong resistance, particularly by women who, for the first time in Pakistan’s history, grouped and mobilized an organized activist women’s movement to challenge Zia’s oppressive laws and authoritarian regime. This movement was to see the emergence of non-governmental women’s organizations (NGOs), feminist writers, activist theatre groups, human rights and legal aid cells, as well as activist documentary filmmakers with a common agenda for social change and justice. Using secondary sources, this paper presents a comprehensive historical overview of the feminist and oppositional developments that began to take shape during Zia’s dictatorship, and have steadily grown to make their mark in contemporary Pakistani society as organs for socio-political change and women’s rights.