Christian Women in Pakistan are afflicted with double discrimination and marginalization

By Shumaila Gill und S. Sheeky, Pakistan

Shumaila Gill (24) lives in Lahore and has a master's degree in Sociology. As a Christian she is opposed to the disadvantage against women and supports religious minorities.

Shumaila Gill (24) lives in Lahore and has a master’s degree in Sociology. As a Christian she is opposed to the disadvantage against women and supports religious minorities. (Foto: private)

Shumaila Gill lives as a Christian in Lahore in Pakistan. Her concern is to call attention to the situation of religious minorities and especially to the situation of women. In the following text she describes discrimination of women in Pakistan, because of their commitment to their Christian faith. She calls for changes in the government so that women in Pakistan will get the same status and respect as men.

Lahore – Women form an important part in building the society and our lives. Being a daughter, a sister, a wife, a friend and a mother a woman’s responsibilities increase with time. Despite the role she plays, her abilities, status and existences are under-estimated, degraded and she is exploited merely on the basis of her gender which is considered less than that of a man.

Pakistan is a country where women are in minority as compared to men according to a survey this ratio is 49:51 it means that women are 49% of the total population then men which is 51% this ratio clearly shows that there are large number of men as compared to women due to which, women faces numerous challenges in their social, political and economic life as compared to men and if we talk about the  women from minority religion either she is Hindu ,Sikh ,Christian or Ahmadi their  situation is  worse because she faces double discrimination and marginalization.

Women belong to minority religion or majority both faces miserable circumstances to compete with the society where there is dominance of males in every walk of life. They have to struggle hard to earn their living to share the economic burden of their family members, but the situation is entirely different for a women who belongs to minority because in comparison with the majority women she has to tolerate the stigmatization and prejudice of majority people in every field either she is a house wife. Employed or student.

Pakistan always remains a hot place for minorities particularly for women to live in, as there is substantial diversity in the status of women across classes, regions, and the rural/urban divide due to uneven socio-economic development and the impact of tribal, feudal, and capitalist social formations on women’s lives.

Minority women faces continuous challenges like  sexual and physical abuse, discrimination and violence at workplace, forced conversion, abduction and incidents like forced marriages reflected in public and private sectors.

Although there are large numbers of non-governmental organizations working in Pakistan whose main goal is to provide protection and to enable all the women to get their rights but such organizations still ignore the basic rights particularly of a women who belongs to religious minorities.

The minorities of the country are still passing through different kinds of ordeals including sexual harassment, forced conversion, religious discriminated, lack of education, higher rates of infant mortality ratio and fewer job opportunities, a study on the minority women in Pakistan reveals.

There are various types of obstacles which are being faced by the minority women living in Pakistan but the research work highlights the few basic challenges which are common for all minority women.

discrimination at work

Large sectors of minority ethnic women are more than twice as likely to be unemployed as their counterpart majority women, because they are discriminated by the majority people who tried to let them down by playing dirty tricks with them through getting benefits for being in majority. There is allocation of 5%job quota for minorities but they are unable to get benefit from them.

People belongs to the minorities specially women have to struggles hard to get jobs to meet their economic needs due to which poverty rate is also higher in minorities. The prejudice and discrimination explains a quarter of the higher unemployment rate faced by women in Pakistan. There are large number of minority women who are sweepers or maids in the houses of rich people where they also become the victim of religious biases from the majority people during working in their homes like physical violence including sexual harassment or being trapped in fake cases of blasphemy through which the majority people took revenge from minority women for not accepting their religion. It is also evident that women from minorities are given less respect and prestige at work place as compared to other women

In the workplace, where women are frequently targeted for their gender, those from the minorities have it even tougher. They had been discriminated against in the workplace in the form of a refusal of a holiday, being made to work on a holiday, paid lower wages, denied increments and sudden terminations and transfers.

discrimination at educational institutions

On the other hand, a minority woman faces extreme level of discrimination in the field of education where Circumstances aren’t any easier in educational institutions.

According to another estimate by National Commission for Peace and Justice When asked about instances of religious discrimination by teachers, 71% of the respondents chose not to reply. The 29% who did reply betrayed fear. They said they were often asked to convert to Islam, an experience that is common to both male and female students from minority communities. At the time of admission, merit appears to take some precedence of religion as 47% of the respondents said they had faced no hurdles due to their faith at the time of seeking admission to an academic institution. However, 27% said they had faced hindrances and 26% chose not to reply.

There is an example of a brilliant students who reported that she got excellent marks in F.Sc Pre Medical and when she goes to the college for get admission her 20 marks was less than that of overall merit, there was another girls but her marks was also less than that of overall merit but she has given exceptional marks because she was Muslim and that girl did not got admission because she was Christian. There are 20 exceptional marks for Hafiz-e-Quran student in all the educational institution of Pakistan but no such advantages are given to students who belong to minority.

mate selection

Finding a life partner is another serious issue for minority women because due to lack of excess towards economic resources and higher rate of illiteracy among minorities. There are large numbers of women from minorities who are still unmarried because they unable to find compatible men for marriage. On the other hand, if women who belongs to minority marries a men from another religion who belongs to majority than that women is socially excluded from her family members and faces extreme form of hatred from her group members and in some cases that women is being murdered or killed by the members of her own religion.

There are several cases found commonly in our society where a women or men is killed by extremist religious parties for marrying out of religion it is nearly considered a sin to marry a women or men from other religion and people who choose their mates out of their own religion have to take asylum in other countries to save their lives  otherwise they have to  pay high amount in form of their lives to doing marriage out of religion they have disgust by people and no one is ready to help such people.

laws for seperation/divorce

There is another serious problem faced by minority women is that she cannot take divorce or get separation because there are no such laws exist or divorce act through which she can take  divorce legally, however, there is only way he can get a divorce is by proving that she committed adultery which she didn’t.

According to Section 10 of the Christian Divorce Act 1869, a husband can file a petition for divorce if he blames his wife for adultery: “any husband may present a petition to the court praying that his marriage may be dissolved on the ground that his wife, has, since the reinforcement thereof, been guilty of adultery.”

There exist 145-years old Christian divorce act that was enforced in 1869 in undivided India under British rule that is adopted by the government of an independent Pakistan and still exists unaltered, in its old form. Under this divorce act Christian wife is limited in her reasons for divorce.

on the other hand this divorce act states that “any wife may present a petition to the district court or high court praying that her marriage may be dissolved on the ground that, since the solemnization thereof, her husband has exchanged his profession of Christianity for the profession of some other religion, and gone through a form of marriage with another woman; or has been guilty of incestuous adultery, marriage with another woman with adultery, or of bigamy with adultery, or of rape, sodomy or bestiality, or of adultery coupled with cruelty and desertion.”

There is an urgent need for satisfactory family laws for minority communities of Pakistan have long posed problems for Pakistan’s non-Muslim population. The Christian community stands at over two million in number. For the Christian community, the bigger problem lies in the laws pertaining to divorce.

There are several other research works being done before on margnazation of minority women which also highlights several issues regarding minority women but there are no such policies and programs being introduced by the government or any other human rights organizations which can provide basic rights to them and help them to come out of the stage of trauma causes due to the extreme level of religious fanaticism in every walk of life, there should be amendments in preexisting laws of constitutions to provide more secured and friendly environment to the minority women a particular quota should be fixed in parliament for minority women. There should be introduced a rule in every type of institution to avoid religion based discussion to promote productive environment for all. There is an urgent need for such policies being introduced by our government which discourage any type of religious discrimination at all levels specially for the women belongs to minorities because the vulnerability of such women increases when they have to fight alone for their rights and people from majority should stand up for giving equal status and respect for women either belongs to majority religion and minority.

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