In the name of honour, a woman can be a breadwinner but cannot vote?

Published: August 23, 2013

The elders of the jirga agreed upon not letting women out of their houses as it could damage their ghairat (dignity) and was totally against Pakhtoon culture. PHOTO: INP/FILE

Women’s suffrage is the right of women to vote.

In primitive societies, women have always been denied basic rights, however, the struggle to snatch what is theirs has never ceased. The movement for women’s suffrage started in France around the end of the eighteenth century and by the twenty-first century, there is no part of the world where women were barred from voting – except, of course, Pakistan.

Yesterday, much was happening in the country because of the by-polls, not only socially but also politically, as women from various areas of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa were not permitted to go out and cast their votes. Reportedly there were dozens of polling stations for women, where not even a single vote was cast as the elders of the jirga agreed upon not letting the women out of their houses as it could damage their ghairat (dignity) and was totally against Pakhtoon culture.

What is even more shocking is that a few political parties were even supporting the decision of the jirga and tried to convince people who were of the opinion that women should cast the votes against this. A few local religious heads also declared that there is no need for women to come out against their values and cast vote, as their vote “doesn’t matter at all” and that “men can better decide the fate of the country” by choosing who to vote for.

Our country is an Islamic-democrat which means two forces are acting here: Islam and democracy.

It is totally beyond my comprehension to decide which of the two forces is against the basic rights of women. Islam gives equal rights to women in such matters and so does democracy. So where does the problem lie?

Does it lie in the wrong interpretation of religion? Or in the misuse of laws? Or in culture?

If it’s the latter, why does the culture feel threatened if women decide who to vote for and cast it?

By any parameters of reason and logic, it cannot be determined that voting is of any harm to the culture or a blemish on the dignity of the family. If the objection is on moral grounds, we are fully aware that there are many other things happening openly in our society whose immorality is well established. From brothel-houses to secret bars for men and all sorts of liberty with things that are strictly against religious, social and moral codes for almost all societies, are not issues for men. When men harass women at home and at the work-place, it never becomes a matter of honour. Also, when the same men stay back at home and let their women go out to win bread for the family and be exploited in many ways, there is no issue of cultural codes but when it comes to the basic rights of voting or education or even having an opinion of their own, the ghairat is seriously damaged?

When it comes to essays and debates, it’s very easy to chant that women are an equal and important part of society; they should be given respect and freedom and so on. However, it’s easier said than done. Unfortunately, when the time comes, the same culture which we take pride in, the same families which we serve all our lives, the same elders for whom we make every effort to please and comfort, stand in the way of women.

Let’s not be hypocrites and pick and choose at our own convenience. When we compare our country with the rest of the world in matters related to economy, technology and other facilities, we should also compare it in terms of basic human rights.

When for the others it is women’s suffrage, it should not be in any way “Women’s Suffer-age” in our country.

Yousra Javaid

Yousra Javaid

A Masters in English literature with distinction, Lecturer, living in an era where being normal is probably the most special thing one can do. The usual beliefs, contradictions and complications to follow. She tweets @YousJavaid twitter.com/YousJavaid

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Pathan

    another blow from the PTI government..Change…. women in general polls voted but not in By polls…………Recommend

  • Umer

    Another jarring action by patriarchs to suppress women, it vividly reflects men’s insecurities..Highly ignoble.Recommend

  • AC

    In primitive societies, women have always been denied basic rights

    Seems like you haven’t read much about primitive socities. The medieval and modern world are much more biased and unsafe to women, than primitive world could ever have been.
    Some primitive tribes in Chhatisgarh India, or the one of the most ancient tribes of humanity residing in Andaman & Nicobar Islands gave those rights to their women, which most women in the so-called civilized world did not have just a century back, and many do not have it even today. BTW, i agree with the rest of your articleRecommend

  • Muhammad Ishfaq

    Another very nicely written article Yousra Javaid. You are absolutely right in all that you said.
    Except this sentence…. by the twenty-first century, there is no part of the world where women were barred from voting – except, of course, Pakistan.
    There is of course our Big Brother Saudi Arabia which hasn’t yet given women the right to vote or to drive a car or even to play games in schools. And there is yet another small theocratic state “Vatican” which is against the women’s right to vote. Bhutan has only recently allowed women to vote and I’m not sure about U.A.E either.
    The situation is quite different in Pakistan as the country as a state and the society as a whole, fully acknowledges the women’s right to vote. That’s why the honorable chief justice of Peshawar high court took a prompt notice of the incident you mentioned. There are a few areas only where a lot still needs to be done not only in terms of Women’s suffrage but on many other issues as well.
    Let democracy prevail and hopefully many things will change within a decade or so.Recommend

  • Umer

    Another jarring action by the patriarchs to suppress women, it vividly reflects men’s insecurities..Highly ignoble.Recommend

  • LOL

    and pakistanis are ready to bash india when a rape happens….lol…. such is a pathetic state of woman in pakistan that they are no allowed to vote….they are raped,attacked with acid,killed for honour and god knows what all…… while rape happens in india people protest and police swings into action..there are no protests and rapists roam freely in pakistan….
    learn to respect ur women and then teach us pakistan…. ur extremely conservative society can never make a woman happy….
    worst…ur media is far more interested in publishing rape stories of india rather than pak…explains a lot about the neglect……..the horrible situtation of pakistan is evident from the fact that veena malik face life threat just because she shed some clothes…patheticRecommend

  • Sami

    i dont believe this can happen in 21ist century ???????Recommend

  • pakro

    every sane person would object and condemn such actsRecommend

  • solo

    how can these people of PTi, ANP and PPP are raising voice for women rights? forget about the religious political parties….Recommend

  • Sami

    @ET best headline………Recommend

  • hypocrite

    From brothel-houses to secret bars for men and all sorts of liberty with things that are strictly against religious, social and moral codes for almost all societies, are not issues for men. When men harass women at home and at the work-place, it never becomes a matter of honour. Also, when the same men stay back at home and let their women go out to win bread for the family and be exploited in many ways, there is no issue of cultural codes but when it comes to the basic rights of voting or education or even having an opinion of their own, the ghairat is seriously damaged? best lines……. i am hypocrite and dont believe these…..Recommend

  • hater

    When for the others it is women’s suffrage, it should not be in any way “Women’s Suffer-age” in our country. and wt about the sufferings of men?Recommend

  • hahahahhaah

    should we agree to all this?no doubt nice descriptions of a failed state……Recommend

  • handsome forever

    true, when it comes to debates everyone turns out to be come a women rights champion but in practicality its all just pack of lies and hypocrisies.Recommend

  • Kapistan

    there is no difference in these clerics, political leaders and Taliban when it comes to women rights.Recommend

  • hatespeech

    the society is not prepare yet to digest such ideas…….Recommend

  • militant

    now we {militants} are been sidelined by political leadership……hails Politics of Pakistan….Recommend

  • Anam

    Thumbs upp to you … Thank you for raising the topic..Recommend

  • Parvez

    You have addressed the elephant in the room, a subject that is so blatantly wrong and yet this discrimination is allowed with impunity.
    When we behave like this, statements like ‘ Islam provides equal rights for both men and women ‘ just does not wash , it gives others an excellent opportunity to bash both the country and religion. In may forums it is clarly spelt out that the Islam being thrust upon this country begins and ends with dress codes and curtailment of womens freedoms. So it becoms apparent that this has less to do with religion and almost everything to do with politics and the persuit of power.
    Once again a very thought provoking and well written blog.Recommend

  • jiyala

    They don’t just stand in the way of women’s rights, they oppose everything that is reasonable. I wouldn’t expect anything better from the rulings of backward and illiterate ‘jirgas’.Recommend

  • Rameez

    I don’t know why ET allows anyone to publish and promote their articles.There are some major flaws or should I say blunders made by the author.

    1.there is no part of the world where women were barred from voting – except, of course, Pakistan.

    Wrong.Women are not barred from voting in Pakistan.The incident that happened in that particular area of KPK is an isolated issue.You cannot simply generalize a single matter and then apply it to every corner of this state(Pakistan).Besides,the courts in Pakistan have taken notice of this issue and have ordered re-polling in areas where women were not allowed to vote.Arrest orders have also been given against those jirga leaders who barred women from voting.I don’t know what is wrong with you(author) when the concerned authorities are taking appropriate steps to deal with this matter.Further more,in order to correct your knowledge.There are countries in this world that actually ban women from voting.They are (Vatican,KSA and UAE).Poorly researched article I must say.

    2.Does it lie in the wrong interpretation of religion? Or in the misuse of laws? Or in culture?

    None.They stopped women from voting because of security reasons.You know how the security situation is in KPK. Although , I must admit that their approach to this matter was not right.

    the same elders for whom we make every effort to please and comfort, stand in the way of women.

    Another lie.They are highly protective of their women.Majority of the elders are in the favor of advancing their womenfolk.Your generalization is invalid.

    When we compare our country with the rest of the world in matters related to economy, technology and other facilities, we should also compare it in terms of basic human rights.
    When for the others it is women’s suffrage, it should not be in any way “Women’s Suffer-age” in our country.

    No one is trampling your or any woman’s right.The concerned authorities,just as I said earlier are sorting out this issue.I don’t why some women just want to make a mountain out of a molehill.Recommend

  • Naveed Alam

    I have read your blog………….great job done…you are right…..we Pakistani are still believe that”Man is for sword,woman is for needle”Pathatic to say the least,Thats the only reason we do not allow female to educate and at the end we surrenderd before dengue…..poor souls….Recommend

  • Hegefunder

    They can live off her earnings and still be not entitle to vote !
    Where else can this happen, except Land of Confused, than Pure ! such things take place !
    This is already a failed Nation and with Nukes too, sooner the Global community takes notice of the facts and address it the better.Recommend

  • Eddied

    It is absolutely disgusting that women were barred from voting….it is understandable that some people could be so ignorant or illiterate that they do not understand the concept of democracy as the necessary way to operate the government…but that is where political or religious leaders should be leading by educating the people about how their country works…shame on these so called village leaders…they do no good for their people…Recommend

  • http://tribune.com p r sharma

    When religion discriminates the wisdom of women treating the witness of a women as half of that of men and the society wears the religion perpetually, it is obvious that women will be forbidden to vote( And political parties will silently subscribe to this).
    I will not be surprised if a demand is made that the votes of women should carry half the weightage as per Islamic law .Recommend

  • Aloo parantha

    @Muhammad Ishfaq

    Why compare Pakistan and the Vatican ? Senseless comparison.That’s a tiny city state full of clergy. They don’t have polls for a president,prime minister and such.
    It’s shameful that in this day and age,a country as large as Pakistan doesn’t allow women to vote.Recommend

  • Fiz

    @LOL:
    As if everything is hunky dory in India. Just peep into ur “garaiban” also before slinging mud on others!Recommend

  • Too Smart

    @Aloo parantha: And you are shameless in twisting facts. Women are not allowed in a tiny part of Pakistan and not in the whole Pakistan as you are suggesting. Sometimes you should come out from under the rock.Recommend

  • AliKuliKhan

    Great article as always. Keep up the good work. Recommend

  • @LOL

    I don’t understand what face India has left to look down on pakistan for its women’s right when there is no respect for indian women in cities like mumbai and Delhi let alone the smaller town and villages. Don’t come on our forums to ridicule us for women’s right abuse when you yourself cannot provide protection, respect and honour to your own women. India has the highest rate of female foeticide in the world, a women is raped every 22 minutes, pick up your newspapers and there are stories of acid attack victims, even CNN and BCC have published reports on how unsafe India is for foreign female tourists. Go read story of Micheala Cross and her traumatic experience in India, before coming here and ridiculing us. Recommend

  • Muhammad Ishfaq

    @Aloo parantha:
    You got the reply bro….
    @Too Smart….
    thanks dear..
    @LOL…
    Its not just Pakistan who is bashing India over rape issue… the whole world is.Go to CNN’s website and check out what that poor student of the University of Chicago has to say on her stay in India for a semester.
    And all that you said is done against women in Pakistan… acid throwing, honor killing etc. is done in India also and on a much larger scale.
    I have only statistics of Crimes Against Women in India during 2011..much before the rape became such an issue….
    A total of 228,650 cases…..Kidnapping and abduction up by 19% and women’s trafficking up by 122% My God…
    And the report further says….Crimes that include the Indian term “eve-teasing” or harassment and heckling and sexual innuendos against women in public places including streets, public transport, cinema halls, along with the rape of minors and women in tribal and villages often go unreported and unrecorded

    I really didn’t want to say this all because a crime against humanity is a crime no matter where it happens and we should not indulge in blame game… that only benefits the criminals.
    But you started it,, like always.Recommend

  • Marwat

    an interestingly no one dare to say y to all this wt was happening in Lakki Marwat….because everyone knew that the whole tribe would boycott them if their women went for voting and if a women had revolted against this decision then everyone knows that wt tribal does to their women in the name of honour…..Recommend

  • javaid

    i totally disagree, if in some part of the KPk women are not allowed for voting how can u impose the entire idea on the whole…..Recommend

  • singuin

    the writer truely depicts the real situation in kpk, fata and Pata…women are suffering there and suffering badly……….Recommend

  • when

    when will we stop taking the women as children making machines and considering them humans?Recommend

  • sara

    women not just in Pakistan but in India also are suffering alot and deprived of their basic rights……..Recommend

  • gogo

    when will women say enough to all this…..i am waiting for that day where women would stand in front of their men and would ask about their sufferings which scared me the most…because i too have a sister, mother and wife..and i know they have been deprived of their basic rights……..Recommend

  • all is well

    lets sit and sing this song that all is well and after that once more try to suppress our women and push them into the dark abyss of ignorance that they should never come out for their rights…this is wt we are actually…………Recommend

  • enough

    lets finish this thing and say enough…and promise that we would inform the concerned authorities if next time such things happens…….Recommend

  • ignorant

    the women from where they are barred from voting are kept so ignorant that they even dont know the power of voting thats y they also didnt want to come out and stayed at their houses.Recommend

  • Guloooo

    in Nowshera, Mardan, Lakki Marwat women ddnt vote…PTI, and ANP who are known to be raising voice for women were also behind all this game………shame on them……..Recommend

  • Aloo parantha

    @ Muhammad Ishfaq

    No,I don’t still see the women in the Vatican,voting,as a relevant point here,with the authors blog.I’m not a ‘bro’ either. Don’t have to blindly agree with anyone willing to back up your lame point as well. Dear,indeed.

    @ Too smart

    You sure used the word ‘shameless’ in a truly appropriate manner.Try the word again,in another one or two sentences where the application is relevant, to sound even ‘smarter’.Recommend

  • https://twitter.com/IngloriousSwaty Ingloriousswaty

    @ Rameez :
    1) isolated incidents? Upper Dir, lower Dir, Lakki Marwat, North Waziristan and South Waziristan,Buner,Swat in Kpk and Mianwali,Sahiwal, Khaniwal in punjab some in by election and also in May 11 national elections and thats a huge amount as someone wise said “be it a grain of sand or a rock, in water they sink the same” be it a single human being, a woman, or one polling station or a whole district, women are denied their basic right and as for the court action it seems like a cosmetic measure to please the media since no action has been taking against people (political parties ) who denied women the right to vote in the May 11 elections.
    and now the right to vote in other countries, KSA is a Hereditary monarchy but still KSA has now allowed women to vote since 2011 and will be able to stand in the next election. In UAE not just women but also men were not allowed to vote. In 2006 both men and women voted, though none of the elected has any power. For Vatican, “The only time a vote is taken regarding the rule of the Vatican is to elect a new pope after a pope dies or resigns. Women are involved by default because the only people allowed to participate are cardinals under the age of 80. Since canon law does not allow women to be ordained as priests, there are no women cardinals” so all three: Vatican, KSA and UAE, are different from the rest of the world #PAKSARZAMEEN, so Please UPDATE your own research !

    2) Security Reasons? Are you kidding me? Are men themselves secure in Pakistan?

    3) They are highly protective of their women??????? Are you sure? Most men feel disgusted and ashamed in our society when their women go out in public, plus if the women vote for a candidate other than their men vote for, those men feel embarrassed as it hurts their ego.

    4) Concerned authorities are sorting out the issue? I am not sure men in Pakistan will ever give women equality or remotely something like equality and justice. Recommend

  • kashif

    @Pathan:
    Pathan means robber, dacoit, kidnapper especially of children. It is a misnomer for Pashtun.It is a derogatory word. It was used by people of India when Pashtuns used to atatck India in past.
    Why you do not use the name Pashtun instead. Also in general parlance when we think of a typical Pathan, the image of a chowkidar, driver, or security guard comes in mind while with Pashtun we think of a higher class of person.Recommend

  • Hatter

    Hey! your article was very informative. I have had limited dealing with people from KP and therefore cannot claim to generalize their world view. However, I would like to quote an experience i had with a few people from up north around Mardan. The man himself, later my grandmother’s security guard was willing to work as a ‘chokidar’ for my grandmother in Punjab but he refused to let his wife be a companion for my grandmother who lives alone and has limited visitors other than family. He together with his wife now resides at my grandmother’s place. This incident made me think that perhaps people higher up North are very conservative and their women are not allowed to work even when the entire families step out of houses for employment opportunities in urban areas like Lahore. This anecdote then refutes the title of this article “In the name of honor,a woman can be the breadwinner but cannot vote?” since this article is largely dealing with areas where women were banned from voting rather than cosmopolitan areas like Peshawar etc.However, like I said before I am not generally aware of the thinking of the men where women were barred from stepping out of the houses to vote, perhaps the women there are given limited career opportunities but i would have assumed if women are forbidden from voting they would not be allowed to be breadwinners for their families.Recommend

  • Muhammad Ishfaq

    @Aloo parantha:
    I respect your point of view but I think the point here was women’s suffrage….. It doesn’t matter if the Vatican doesn’t have polls for president or prime minister… They certainly have polls for the highest authority there “The Pope” and women are denied their right to vote for an election which
    effects the lives of billions of people around the world. So, in my humble opinion Vatican’s example was very much relevant.
    Women in Pakistan were denied the right to vote in just 14 out of a 7,606 polling stations of just 3 constituencies out of a total 39 and Pakistani high court has withheld the results of 2 constituencies and ordered a re-poll there. But still it was the biggest news of the day in Pakistan because Pakistani government, its people, media and judiciary all are committed to the concept of Women’s suffrage.Recommend

  • B A Maloik

    Woman emancipation is a far cry. It took us 65 years to transfer power from one civilian to another civilian government! We still have to follow Quaid’s vision on church-state relations as propounded by him on August 11 1947..We love to display portraits of Jinnah every where but have no regard for his political philosophy. This is definition of hypocrisy.Recommend

  • Someone

    @ Muhammad Ishfaq

    It’s only clergy that elect the Pope-a bench of old cardinals,if I’m not mistaken-No polls.
    The popes are certainly modernizing now-the latest one asked for peace with muslims and said he was no one to judge non-practicing gays,leaving the judging to God…that’s better than someone who would issue fatwas against gays.Even the Pope who was shot by that Turkish man..agca? ..he visited a mosque to show his commitment to peace.
    About the pope affecting the lives of 1.2 billion catholics-there is 100% separation of religion and state in all christian majority countries…and it’s besides the point that non catholic christians don’t have anything to do with the pope.Recommend