Book launch: The Women’s Movement in Pakistan: Activism, Islam and Democracy
Convening Space, IDS
The Women's Movement in Pakistan: Activism, Islam and Democracy details the history of women’s social, legal and political status in Pakistan as played out through its urban-based modern women’s movement.
Since the 1980s, a small but influential group of women activists have been advocating for their rights, the restoration of democracy, and a secular state. This was in response to the state’s growing use of Islam for political purposes, which peaked during the period of General Zia ul-Haq’s military rule (1977-88), during which the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan and rise of political Islam worked in favour of his domestic policy of Islamization.
These developments led to Pakistan becoming an increasingly exclusionary state in which religious minorities and women were accorded lower status than other citizens. Despite setbacks, such as another period of military rule and growing influence of the Taliban, women activists have succeeded in some areas.
Recent years have seen unprecedented legislative reform, policy changes to reverse discrimination, and the first substantial increase in women's political participation.
Author Ayehsa Khan argues that women's movements demands for their rights and a secular state are both integral to the project of building a democratic and inclusive Pakistan, even though social norms have evolved to curb this discourse today.
About the author
Ayesha Khan works with the Collective for Social Science Research in Karachi, Pakistan on gender and development, social policy and conflict/refugee issues in the region.
Her current research explores women’s collective action for political expression in Pakistan, as part of the Action for Empowerment and Accountability (A4EA) research programme, an international research programme led by IDS.
She worked as a journalist in international radio, local television, newspapers and magazines from 1990-96 and has served on the governing bodies of non-governmental organizations working on women’s issues.