Why I won't raise my daughters in Pakistan, either

Zack does the legwork and provides possibly the best summary of women's status in Pakistan relative to other countries in the West, the Subcontinent, and the Middle East that I have ever seen. He uses the invaluable Pew Global Attitudes Survey (PDF) as is source. The results paint a grim picture of Pakistan as generally falling far behind other countries in the comparison, such as Bangladesh and Egypt, on attitudes about whether women should be educated or have a say in their marriage options. Zack also looks at the Global Gender Gap Report 2007 and finds Pakistan ranking near the bottom:

Pakistan seems to be really bad for women in terms of economic participation and opportunity (a measure which includes labor force participation, wage equality for similar work, income, legislators, senior officials and managers, and professional and technical workers), educational attainment (literacy rate, and enrollment in primary, secondary and tertiary education), and health and survival (sex ratio at birth and healthy life expectancy).

This is grim indeed. The question that comes to my mind though is why does Pakistan fare so poorly? The data shows that there are numerous Islamic countries far ahead of Pakistan, and there are countries poorer than Pakistan which also are better. So easy answers like "It's because of religion" or "it's because of economics" don't really apply.

Out of curiosity I checked to see how Pakistan ranks in per-capita GDP compared to some of the other countries on the list. Fareed Zakaria argues in his book, The Future of Freedom, that liberal rights should be correlated with this measure (among other things - the book is highly recommended). Wikipedia has a list of countries ranked by per-capita GDP (normalized for "purchasing power" to even out currencies) using data from the International Monetary Fund, and we see that Pakistan is pretty low on the list:

RankCountryper-capita GDP
4United States$43,223

Note that Yemen and Afghanistan do rank below Pakistan here, but they were not included in the Pew survey. Almost all of Africa ranks below Pakistan, but the African countries surveyed still fare better on the Pew questions (particularly the marriage choice issue). I haven't made the effort to see where the African countries fall on the Gender Gap Report, as that is as much a function of poverty and war and hence my assumption is that the African countries will fare worse overall.

So what is going on here? Though I have no doubt it will be spun otherwise by the jafisphere, Islam is clearly not the causative factor. Additional evidence is in the surprising result from Pew on the question of whether a woman has the right to decide whether to wear the veil or not (see chart below - click to enlarge). Pakistan is fairly moderate and has become even more so in the past five years, whereas countries in the middle east have actually regressed. So the attitudes towards women are at least partially separable from attitudes about religion.

The answer probably lies in tribal attitudes. As far as I am aware, Afghanistan and Pakistan have stronger tribal identities than in most of the rest of the world, and given how much of these states are still frontier, the ability of the government to ameliorate and dilute tribal allegiances and values is close to nonexistent. Much of the region exists in a pre-Westphalian condition, which is also why it remains a natural haven for Al Qaeda. In that sense, the situation for women is probably going to remain unchanged until the attending situations of stability, law and order, and liberal rights and freedom are addressed first.


Green Views said...

Nice blog. Pew may or may not be asking the right questions.

Let us keep in touch...

We can hone in on many statistics. Marriage is something very different in Pakistan. It is families coming together..so the entire family is involved in the decisio making...something similar to huge Italian or Jewish families coming together....

A similar survey for men would also provide similar results. Pakistani men also get married with the prmission of their parents.Here are some statistics

The Pakistani Local bodies is mandated to have more then 30% percent women (moving to 50% within the next five years). In the National Assembly there are more than 23% women which is higher than USA and one of the highest in the world.

Pakistan's founding foathers was a mohter...Fatima Jinnah who also almost won the 1963 election.

Benazir Bhutto was twice elected as Prime Minister.

Pakistan is NOT tribal. It is agrarian. Punjab, Sindh and Kashmir and Sarhad are settled areas. The tribals constitute less than 1% of the population, but you hear about them a lot on the news.

Despite nonsensical publicity, rape is also very low in Pakistan. Women are protected and escorted. Compare rape figures to USA and UK and you will find them very low...


Moin Ansari

Green Views said...

We live in the USA...and yes, I do wnat to raise my American born daughters in Pakistan. I sent my kids for a vacation last tyear and they loved it so much that instead of goin to Europe this year, they want to go to Pakistan.

Here is an article a wrote several years ago...it is still valid


Don't believe everything you read on Pew and see on Fox!!!!

Rebutting the Urban Myth of Rape in Pakistan: A statistical analysis. Maligning Pakistan is an industry
A rape or murder of one human being is just plain wrong. However a similar story can be written for any country of the world. Stories of evil from one part of the world are exaggerated and blown out of proportion.

Some newspaper issue statements like “As tradition there dictates” which is a way of maligning a people. Anecdotal evidence of “The exact number of honour killings is hard to ascertain as many go unreported.” show a basic bias. Many of the 10,000 murders in the USA can be labeled as “honor killings”. Similar murders/rapes in India and many other countries go unreported. Statistically, rape is a very rare phenomenon in Pakistan and most Muslim countries. Of course some reporters do not mention any of this in badly written superficial article.

NUMBER OF RAPES IN PAKISTAN ARE VERY LOW COMPARED TO THE USA OR THE UK: According to the human Rights Commission of Pakistan 2 rapes occur per hour in Pakistan. This calculate to less than 4500 rapes per year in Pakistan. This number seems to be grossly exaggerated, and even if true, pales to the number women who are raped in USA, UK and other Western countries.

RAPES IN AMERICA ARE THE HIGHEST IN THE WORLD: According to the national organization for women (http://www.now.org/issues/violence/stats.html), 132,000-1.2 million women are raped in the USA. More than half a million are battered, of which half are women. According to amnesty international (http://www.amnesty.org.uk/news_details.asp?NewsID=16618), the number of women raped in the UK is 10,000-50,000.

RAPES IN SOUTH AFRICA: The Times dated June 8, 2005 printed a story that reported that The South African Law Commission recently estimated that 1.69 million women a year were raped in the country. Rapes in Congo were used as an intrument of war. More than 5 million women were raped. During the Hootoo and Tootsi civil wars millions of women were raped and murdered. In Ugando rape is a common practice.

RAPES IN INDIA: Rapes in India runs into millions. 50 million “White Widows” are incarerated in temples and routinely raped and prostituted.

ONE THIRD OF THE PAKISTANI PARLIAMENT IS MADE UP OF WOMEN:Pakistan has a population of 150 million so the numbers are even lower in terms of per capita. The Pakistani parliament has 33% women and this issue is very important to men and women alike. Compare to 8% in th USA. Tunisia and Mauritania hae some of the highest representation of women in the world parliaments.

Even in this open hunting season on Muslims, the media should compare and put things in perspective. Obviously your reporter did not do her homework, either in terms of accuracy of his reporting, nor in terms of setting the right ref. to context.

Nightstudies said...

The other day I was telling a friend of mine from Pakistan about a documentary I saw about a women's prison in Iran - most of the women (and a few little girls) were there for trying escape their husbands. I took this as proof that Iran keeps women as slaves, if trying to escape is a crime.

My friend told me that in Pakistan, if a women was foolish enough to go to the police and tell them that her husband was abusing her or trying to kill her, the police would laugh at her and force her back to her husband.

I'm not entirely sure which country is worse.

But to deny that this attitude doesn't come from Islam, is dishonest. An Arabic speaking bloggers recently posted a list of suras from the Koran that are usually mistranslated into English - and he claims that there the one on beating women is one such - there is nothing in the arabic about beating "lightly".

Aziz said...

NS, I guess you are predisposed to believe a sole blogger opining about a verse of the qur'an in that way, but I assure you his opinion is not representative of the 1400 years of Qur'anic exegesis on the topic.

I agree that attitudes towards women may be influenced by perceptions of Islam, but in those cases it is Islam being interpreted in the context of tribal attitudes (and thus lendingt those tribal attitudes legitimacy). Just like when I swing a hammer, whther I am swinging it at a nail or at someone's head is a function of whether I am a carpenter or a psycho. The hammer is just the hammer. Blaming it is irrelevant.

Nightstudies said...

Tribal attitudes, Islamic attitudes, they are the same. It's been 1400 years since Mohammad died - did Islam end these "tribal attitudes", or did it prove compatible with them?

Islam not only hasn't brought justice, but since Islam is set in stone, it kept society from improving.

If Islam allows societies to be this bad - if in fact it brings stagnation - what good is it?

Nightstudies said...