Why are our female MPs against women’s rights?

Published: July 11, 2012

on average 100 women are raped every 24 hours in Karachi city alone. PHOTO: REUTERS

A couple of days ago, Kashmala Tariq shut down the reproductive bill, on the basis of religion, stating that it was an issue of ‘sensitive’ nature. Now, either our MPs don’t know what reproductive rights include or they don’t care to develop enough grey matter to analyse and have proper debates.

Not to worry; here is reproductive justice 101 just for you.

Reproductive justice recognises that women’s reproductive health is shaped by the socio-economic conditions of their lives. This includes conditions like human rights violation, race, sexuality, and status that they have in the country they reside in. It teaches that unless we solve all these issues, women cannot have control over their reproductive health.

Aside from reproductive justice, we have the topic of reproductive rights. This includes access to sex education, access to information and treatment of sex-related disease, the right to choose what is right for them, and last but not least; the right to have an abortion.

In Pakistan, sex-related diseases are on the rise as is sexual violence. According to UNAIDS, HIV prevalence in Pakistan nearly doubled from 2005 to 2008. In addition to this, Pakistan has seen a rise in cases of rape with 220 FIRs being filed in 43 districts in March 2012 compared to 147 registered in 33 districts in the preceding month. Moreover, Dr Zulfiqar Siyal revealed that on average 100 women are raped every 24 hours in Karachi city alone. Statistics have been produced which suggest that every three hours a woman is raped in Pakistan which doesn’t include the rape cases which are not reported due to social stigma and marital rape cases are not even taken into account.

I, thus, ask you what reproductive justice are we offering to the women of Pakistan?

Our women deserve the bill on reproductive health; it is their right, Miss Kashmala.

You had stated that the topic of abortion and religion is controversial; well did you know that in 2010, Pakistan Today did an interview with religious edicts on the issue of abortion. In their interview, they found them to be fairly open on the issue?

mufti (Islamic scholar who issues fatwas) said that while scholars from all schools of thought in Islam agree that abortion is forbidden after the first four months of pregnancy, Hanafi scholars permit abortion until the end of four months, likening the act to ‘moral transgression’ rather than to ‘crime’.

In his view, one would use the principle of ‘al-aham wal-muhim’ (more important vs less important) in deciding the case, allowing scholars to permit abortions up to day 40, and in some schools of thought, even up to day 120 of gestation. He added that within moral and religious bounds, a physical or mental health provider must always be considered a better authority than a religious scholar when dealing with individual cases. 

This brings me to my next question; Miss Kashmala Tariq, if Islamic scholars are of this opinion, why can you not do some research for yourself before making decisions that could potentially ruin the lives of many many women?

Pakistan exhibits a dire necessity of reproductive health services.

We, Pakistanis, fail to explain to our children the intricacies of sexuality, but we expect them to behave in a responsible manner out of nowhere. We don’t teach them about the dangers of STDs or the necessity of safe sex practices. Instead, we demonise something which is a natural part of human life. We just fail to provide them with the education they deserve. How can we expect them to learn if they are never taught?

In 2010, Dr Sorush and his team conducted a study to monitor Millenium Development Goal (MDG) 5 themes in Pakistan.

“Our research showed that even doctors frequently turn away women seeking abortions, because they see these procedures as sinful”, Sorush says. “But it is not a question of morality. It is a question of health – and everyone has a right to health.”

Guttmacher Institute research shows, 890,000 women have unsafe abortions annually in Pakistan. 800 of these women will die and further 197,000 will be hospitalised due to complications.

“The problem is that there is no legal cover for these procedures,” Head of Advocacy at the Shirkat Gah women’s resource centre, condemns the current legal situation. “Women are told upfront: this is your risk, so if you don’t make it, that’s your problem.”

Women may take on this risk alone, but the physical price they pay has significant consequences for developing countries as a whole – where the majority of unsafe abortions are carried out.

In this whole debate, all the religious high-and-mighty people forget that they are ignoring the person who is living, breathing and existing in this world.

Pakistani men shouldn’t be propagating abortion only when they want to hide their sin or when they too cowardly to take responsibility for their actions i.e. premarital sex. It is not just a woman’s responsibility to take care of her sexual health, but her partner’s as well.

Special Rapporteur to UN, Anand Grover, released a statement in 2011 calling for the worldwide legalisation of abortion. He argued that the continued criminalisation of this medical practice has led to a systematic abuse of women’s human rights – including the rights to life, health and equality.

Yes, it’s a right that women should have!

I demand from the MPs of Pakistan to get off their religious high horses and face the realities.

I want a woman MP who understands my multiple marginalisations as a woman in the Pakistani society. I want someone who does not throw away my concerns because they don’t align with her personal agenda. I want an MP who will listen to my demands and my concerns, and not just dismiss them by categorising them to be a foreign agenda of NGOs.

It was 50% of women of Pakistan who gave you that vote, not your conservative men. I am a woman of Pakistan; represent me.

I want my reproductive rights!

The original version of this post appeared here.

Follow Ayesha on Twitter @ashsultana 


Ayesha Asghar

A socialist who works as a women rights and anti-racism advocate. She tweets @ashsultana

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

  • saad aziz

    excellent piece of writing, kashmala tariq please read MantoRecommend

  • Ali Ahsan

    My opinion towards abortion can be best described by the great George Carlin himself:

  • Munnabhai

    It is unfortunate that women dont have any legal rights even though people claim Islam gives women most rights than any other religion. I do not agree.

    Women in Pakistan are treated like burden and killed without any reason. It is wrong to intimate a woman into doing things just for the honor of the family. What about the lady’s honor? What will her children see in her? No ability to take decisions for her own life and future.

    It is sad.Recommend

  • Abdul Basit

    So now Human rights are Western things? Abortion is the right of every woman,what she does with her body is her right.A woman’s body is not the property of any man.Cavemen need to get out of their misogynistic mentality,if a woman doesn’t want to carry a pregnancy to full term,that’s her right.
    Those self-hating women who propagate against reproductive rights are doing their gender more harm than any misogynistic man ever could.Recommend

  • Abid P Khan


    “Why are our female MPs against women’s rights?”
    Can you kindly change the title to, “Why are our MPs against voter’s rights?” Recommend

  • SaQiB

    The title of the 2nd picture says “Accessibility to abortion is a right everyone woman should have”

    means illegitimate relationships should prosper…….wRecommend

  • SaQiB

    lolzz ET……. ur tempered my comment…….. “FREEDOM OF SPEECH”, right?Recommend

  • JHB

    If a child is killed after 5 minutes of birth then that is illegitimate and if the child is killed before 5 minutes of birth that is human rights. This forum is to just follow the western values. Even most of europe and USA have not yet given this so called right of killing infants to women. Shame on You author… Recommend

  • Yawwn

    If so concerned, join politics. Veto her and pass the bill. stop talking, start doing something! :PRecommend

  • mariya suhail

    Excellent article!! Bravo girlRecommend

  • Fatima

    Not surprising to see female pakistani politicians taking actions to harm women’s rights.Women in any position of influence,power in pakistan know that they have to toe the line of the misogynistic male pakistanis otherwise they won’t get to remain in power for long.So,we have the war on reproductive rights in pakistan.Not surprising,a society built around patriarchy and keeping women under the feet will act in this manner.The right to abortion is a basic human right,the religious fanatics objecting to it,want to keep pakistani women as second class citizens.Recommend

  • Shumaila Khan

    Religious extremists and their obsession to control women’s bodies.
    Her body,her choice.
    If a woman wants to have an abortion,she should be free to get it,without harassment and bullying from anyone.But this goes against the basic philosophy of religious fanatics.Letting a woman make decisions for her body is something unacceptable to them.They want to control everything women do.The female MNA is following the script to keep herself in the good books of the pakistani male voters.Recommend

  • Saira

    Bravo! Thank you for being my voice!Recommend

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/author/430/faraz-talat/ Faraz Talat

    “If a child is killed after 5 minutes of birth then that is illegitimate and if the child is killed before 5 minutes of birth that is human rights”

    What kind of abortion takes place five minutes before delivery? And where on earth are you getting your information on obstetrics?Recommend

  • Zee

    Shumaila Khan,

    Why can’t a 15 year old girl get married without an extremist like you crying “backward” and “crime”? Is it because it goes against the “basic philosophy of liberal fanatics”?

    Get a mirror.Recommend

  • basil

    nice work ! A very well researched article Recommend

  • JHB

    @Faraz Talat
    Hazrat I was speaking metaphorically. A fetus consumes oxygen in the womb through the mother. If you would crack open any textbook on human embryology, you would see that a fetus in the womb meets the scientific definition of “life.” (Cell generation + consumption of oxygen and nutrients.) The SCIENTIFIC definition of life, not a philosophical definition. Author’s philosophy is that the human must breathe according to her narrow definition of “breathe,” but that’s not supported with the objective scientific FACTS. Wouldn’t you agree that it’s better to operate on scientific FACTS than personal philosophy? Even one-celled creatures are alive. What is growing in the woman is more than a one-celled creature. The nature of the life in the woman is human.
    It is the product of human DNA; therefore, its nature, its essence, is undeniably human.
    Because it is human in nature, if left to live, it will result in a fully developed human baby.
    Humans are humans not because they have feet, hands, walk vertically, and speak, etc. Not all people have feet, hands, can walk, and speak. They are humans because of their nature, their essence, not because of physical abilities or disabilities.
    A person born without arms and legs is still human.
    A person who cannot speak is still human.
    A person in a coma, helpless, unaware, unmoving, is still human by nature and it is wrong to murder such a person.
    What is growing in the womb does not have the nature of an animal, bird, or fish. It has human nature.
    If it is not human in nature, then what nature is it?
    If it is not human in nature, then does it have a different nature than human?
    If so, then from where did it get this different nature, since the only sources of its nature are human egg and human sperm?
    Let me quote some of well known Scientific Books:

    “Human development begins at fertilization, the process during which a male gamete or sperm (spermatozoo developmentn) unites with a female gamete or oocyte (ovum) to form a single cell called a zygote. This highly specialized, totipotent cell marked the beginning of each of us as a unique individual.”

    “A zygote is the beginning of a new human being (i.e., an embryo).”

    Keith L. Moore, The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology, 7th edition. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders, 2003. pp. 16, 2.

    “Development begins with fertilization, the process by which the male gamete, the sperm, and the femal gamete, the oocyte, unite to give rise to a zygote.”

    T.W. Sadler, Langman’s Medical Embryology, 10th edition. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2006. p. 11.

    “Although life is a continuous process, fertilization (which, incidentally, is not a ‘moment’) is a critical landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new genetically distinct human organism is formed when the chromosomes of the male and female pronuclei blend in the oocyte.”

    Ronan O’Rahilly and Fabiola Müller, Human Embryology and Teratology, 3rd edition. New York: Wiley-Liss, 2001. p. 8.

    “The term conception refers to the union of the male and female pronuclear elements of procreation from which a new living being develops.”

    “The zygote thus formed represents the beginning of a new life.”

    J.P. Greenhill and E.A. Friedman, Biological Principles and Modern Practice of Obstetrics. Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders, 1974. pp. 17, 23.

    “Every time a sperm cell and ovum unite a new being is created which is alive and will continue to live unless its death is brought about by some specific condition.”

    E.L. Potter and J.M. Craig, Pathology of the Fetus and the Infant, 3rd edition. Chicago: Year Book Medical Publishers, 1975. p. vii.Recommend

  • Sara Jamil


    Not surprising to see paedophiles lobbying to spread their sickness.You belong in police custody away from normal people.Paedophiles have no place in society.Paedophilia is a ‘crime’ and a very serious and horrific crime.That people in our country try to not only defend it but propagate it as well is extremely distressing.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Passionately written and hard to disagree with you.
    Our members of parliament, female or male, are never really pushed on matters that do not directly concern them and more so their pockets. In such cases laws are drafted, tabled and passed in a matter of hours. This must change, the million dollar question is how.Recommend

  • Zee

    Sara Jamil,

    You didn’t even ask me what was the age of the groom, how did you decide it is pedophilia? The age of consent in your cherished Denmark is 15 and the marriageable age in New York is 14. Throw the Danes/New Yorkers into the prison. They belong to the “sickness” and “crime” you mentioned and “have no place in society” and should belong in “police custody away from normal people”.

    My point is about people like you: parroting ad nauseum the cliches of the day.Recommend

  • Zee

    Sara Jamil,

    You didn’t even ask me what was the age of the groom, how did you decide it was pedophilia? The age of consent in your cherished Denmark is 15 and the marriageable age in New York is 14. Throw the Danes/New Yorkers into the prison. They belong to the “sickness” and “crime” you mentioned and “have no place in society” and should belong in “police custody away from normal people”.

    My point is about people like you: parroting ad nauseum the cliches of the day.Recommend

  • Zoon

    The right to abortion is not as basic as you are suggesting. It is the matter of taking a life. Three weeks after conception the ‘fetus’ is as alive as you and me. This means by the time a woman finds out she is pregnant with a child it has a heart that beats and the nervous system has developed enough for it to feel pain.
    It is in essence no different from the slaughter of a new-born baby.
    Would you, dear author, like to witness that?
    Recently an Oxford based philosopher wrote a paper on how parents and doctors should be given the right to take a new born baby’s life, and the justification was that its no different from aborting a fetus in a woman’s uterus. Only If you, and the pro-choice crowd can also fight for this right, then speak of right to abortion.Recommend

  • Maleeha

    you are a pro lifer, grow a uterus then defend women and their rights. If you are a woman, than please abstain yourself from commenting about social issues that has direct effects on women and their choices. If you can paste so much about fetus it’s time that you really read about social conditions and how society works.
    “Remember”, the stress woman takes during her pregnancy (if it’s against her will) has adverse psychological and social effects on the child in future, get your facts sorted.Recommend

  • Awais

    @Ali Ahsan:
    Dude, I would really shake your hand right now for posting that. I always feel the people around me could learn so much about themselves and the things around them from George Carlin’s stand-ups. R.I.P George.Recommend

  • northern lights

    Perhaps some women are so bitter about the lack of opportunities they had that they don’t want their daughters to have them either. It is the only way I can explain it. Recommend

  • Intelektual

    OMG where is the reference to 5 min before of birth is made in the article !! and all the statistics relate to Paki women or are you saying no Local women has ever been sexually abused or had reproductive health issues in Pakistan !! Shame on U !!Recommend

  • Intelektual

    By what twisted logik would bringing an illicit child into the world stop illegitimate relationships !!
    Its like saying someone else should be brought into this world to be punished for what their parents did or as the statistics suugest for what the father single handedly did wrong ! Recommend

  • sajid

    Bro ever heard of birth control? You can get birth control products in most shops now. People can still have illicit relationships and not have children. SO what has abortion got to do with it.

    Imagine a woman getting raped at the age of 17 and then having the rapists child. Just stand in her shoes for a minute and tell me what you think. I shudder to imagine the scenario.

    Also reproductive right is not just abortion. It has to do a lot with giving women proper information about their bodies and sexual health.

    And I think female MP’s themselves lead a very privileged life. They don’t care about ordinary women. Recommend

  • Insomniac

    The reason comes to my mind is because these women MP’s don’t belong to the mass. They are differently bred, they can’t understand the average human being’s problems. Recommend