Feminism is considered to be a stigma in Pakistan and in some other regions as well where people, who really look for gender equality, feel ambivalent to get themselves associated with the term. The reason behind this kind of attitude is related mainly to the way it is interpreted by some organizations as well as some self-declared liberals and feminists.  Another factor, especially in Pakistan, is the cultural setup which always depicts the term in a negative way and makes it look as if it will turn the existing family institution and patriarchal structure topsy-turvy. Misogynists who tend to despise the true meaning and purpose of feminism or feminist movement are those who, to quote Yuval Noah Harari, “…fear that female liberation might lead to female domination”.

Talking about feminism in Pakistani context, here we see two interpretations of the concept. First one, that seems to challenge our socio-cultural patterns with the propagation of Western-style narratives into our values. The other one can be related to the concept of Islamic feminism which enunciates the need to ensure equality among all genders as per the teachings of Islam, and guarantee women all the social, cultural, political, legal and educational rights. In 1990s, with the rise of third-wave feminism, emerged Islamic feminism. Islamic feminists argue that quite a number of Muslims value their culture and tradition more than anything else and hence, they confuse it with Islamic values. Keeping this in view, they take it as their inherent right to be pugnacious and dominant against women because of the predominant patriarchal structure that has emerged as a result of cultural practices. 

These two categories of feminism have also been observed in ‘Aurat March’. The first Aurat March was carried out in Pakistan in the year 2018 on International Women’s Day and received critique and censure from different groups because of some placards that looked obscene vis-à-vis our cultural norms. The march which has actually been initiated by variegated elites,mainly displays the interests of a modicum of people and those interests are mostly execrated by a large segment of society.  But that is the one side of the picture. There are also a number of people who present the actual problems that are faced by women and marginalized groups in the society, including domestic violence, child abuse, forced marriage, harassment at workplace and so on. But what captures the sight and attention of masses is women coming out on the streets and demanding their rights, which according to them, is an unreligious and an immoral thing to do.

Some religious clerics further serve to stir the emotions of people against gender-equality and women empowerment. These self-proclaimed guardians of Islam often misinterpret and misquote the verses of Holy Qur’an and present women as docile and pliant creatures that need to be directed by men and have no autonomy. When women demand their rights, it is portrayed as if it is against the spirit of Islam and needs to be repudiated. Albeit Pakistan is an Islamic state, but a great number of women in the country are in an immiserizingcondition because of the misconstruction of the religious teachings, and that too, only when the matter is about ‘women’.According to World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Index 2020, Pakistan’s gender inequality index stands at 151 out of 153 countries.

To encapsulate the whole idea, those who work for the true cause of gender equality first need to take measures as per the cultural patterns of the society. Borrowing ideas from feminist movements in the West and applying them here, will further exacerbate the situation. The need of the time is to address the grave issues faced by marginalized groups in Pakistan. Mixing these serious problems with secondary issues will distort the meaning of true feminism which seeks more for ‘equality’ than for ‘identicality’ of gender-rights.