By Saima Khan, WEEKLY PULSE MAGAZINE, September 30, 2013
Despite legislation on violence against women and the efforts of NGOs working for women rights, women continue to be victimized in Pakistan. Malala Yousafzai was fortunate enough to survive and resume her journey towards women empowerment through education; however, others continue to be persecuted by the society.
Though various plans about women rights are being forwarded by the government as well as non-government bodies and much has been said about the impingement of women emancipation in the media, the reasons for failure of these legislations and plans are never discussed in the Pakistani context. If discussed, only religion is blamed for the negative attitude of men and society towards women.
To better understand the feminine situation in Pakistan, it is important to historically view the region and philosophically analyze the working ideology, both foundational and externally applied. For this, it is also required to understand its culture, which in recent times is an amalgamation of indigenous practices and rituals; and of imported as well as influenced ideas of the West. Nonetheless, it has to be seen whether all the western introduced ideas are applicable to our society or not…if yes, then to what extant?
Are these in concurrence with the prevalent practices? Or if the motive of introducing those external ideas is to improve the social situation of women, then the confrontation faced by those ideas is retarding the position of women or it is elevating their status? In other words, are the imported solutions to rescue the women useful in helping women, by stamping out discrimination against women; or it is further narrowing the space to live for feminine gender, by both putting extra burden of responsibilities on her shoulders, and instigating the local norms to become unnecessarily strict towards them through wrong interpretations?
Pakistan has a colonial past, practices of people and of governing bodies are manipulated by this historical belonging. Therefore the policies made by the government and issues raised by the nongovernment organizations are also a result of the colonial mindset. Frantz Fanon in his book ‘The wretched of the earth’ discusses the condition of state and its people, governing and the public, with colonial past. He has also analyzed the impacts of colonization and implications of decolonization in these states. He elaborates that colonization period gives a chance to few of the native people to mould themselves as an elite. These people start walking on the pave of colonizer’s practices and yearn to imitate the colonizer by adopting their cultural values. The transformation in their thinking pattern, to look like the western dominating class, changes their opinion about the indigenous issues. Hence, this class of local people views all the indigenous problems through the lens of the western perspective; and this propensity chops this class from the actual situation of the local public. Therefore, all the local issues are resolved by importing solutions out of the minds of colonizers. These ‘Tin-pot Bourgeoisie’ of the decolonized society rule the public through local faces and imperial minds.
When the bourgeoisie or the governing class, as feminists, gets down solving women issues, the policies show their same predisposition towards problem solving. These feminists intend to imitate their western counter parts; apparently in their physicality, as a cosmetic change, and internally reform themselves intellectually to bring in the ideological change in the society. By pursuing this agenda, feminists of Pakistan constitute a screen between the people and the rapacious ruling class. Borrowing ‘Tin-pot bourgeoisie’ from Fanon, I term Pakistani feminists as Tin-pot Feminists because they are introducing western idea of women freedom without understanding the ambits of indigenous culture.
Tin pot Feminists at institutional and at individual level behave like tin pot Bourgeoisie, as they have also divided women in to two segments- the first group of women is intellectual and knowledgeable, who would tell what are women rights; and other who are ignorant women and are unable to fight for their rights. Even if the second group would not demand help from social discrimination; women of intellect- the tin pot feminists, would come to rescue them by applying the imported western solutions against social violence against women. It is never considered appropriate by these feminists to explain why any particular form of international ideology is important for local women, for the reason that a) their aloofness from the native culture, b) there is difference in demands of emancipation of both tin pot feminists and the local women. Because the tin pot feminist are mostly influenced by the western life style and policies, therefore, they position themselves in western paradigm and think on their cultural pattern. This makes them ignorant of the fact that the demands of their native culture is different from that of foreign culture, even if they want to eradicate some unwanted cultural practices, they have to bring the change from within instead of bringing it externally. For example, if there is some social practice in any region of Pakistan, like tribal areas, interior Sindh or southern Punjab etc, mere implementation of western interpreted principles of women rights will fail; as these will appear alien.
These local people are culturally so much fixed in their thoughts and practices that any change without their consent will deteriorate the situation instead of improving. That is why, women emancipating agenda against indigenous culture and religion becomes futile endeavor and obstacle itself. This answers the above posed questions; our governmental as well as non-governmental organizations cannot safeguard women rights unless they do not exhume the real native issues. Universalization of women rights claims to resolve their issues by unveiling the women of east physically but end up in veiling problems battled by them intellectually, socially, culturally and religiously.