Journal Article

Moving Beyond the Binary: Gender-based Activism in Pakistan

Published on 27 November 2018

This article challenges the binary framework within which women in Pakistan have been viewed, by political actors, the state, and more broadly as well, as either ‘secular/feminist/godless/Westernised’ or ‘authentic/Islamic/traditional’. It begins by contextualising the genealogy of this binary in Pakistan’s colonial and political history, which has led to the state’s side-lining of moderate religious voices and promotion of right-wing religious parties that suited its political objectives. Even the scholarship produced by the women’s movement, which arose in response to a politicised Islamisation process begun under military rule in the 1980s, inadvertently reproduces this binary as activists sought to assert a rights-based agenda and were supported by international donor funds.

A shift in recent years in response to West-based international scholarship post 9/11, which focuses on the subjectivity and organisation of Islamist women, has influenced work on women in Pakistan as well as a donor turn to funding faith-based initiatives. The paper then examines current gender justice movements that emerged independently at a grass-roots level, and draws attention to their effectiveness despite lack of strong linkages with either the women’s movement or Islamist women.

Cite this publication

Khan, A. and Kirmani, N. (2018) Moving Beyond the Binary: Gender-based Activism in Pakistan. Feminist Dissent, (3), 151-191

Publication details

published by
Warwick University


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