October 11, 2020

Graphic by Naseem ur Rehman

More often than not, in discussing feminist issues and patriarchal constructs we focus on their negative impacts upon adult women, overlooking the fact that patriarchal control and restrictions are first placed on baby girls. During her childhood, they are not protected from exploitation, infringement of human rights, sexual and physical violence and lack of access to education and healthcare.

Regarded as most vulnerable in the society, young girls in Pakistan have limited access to a healthy diet. Many are discriminated against. Only 44 percent of girls attend school. No wonder while 60 percent of the population can read and write, only 45 percent of women are literate. Apart from sexual harassment and violence, many young girls are forced into early marriages. According to UNICEF 21 percent of girls in Pakistan are married before their 18th birthday, while 3 percent are married before the age of 15 – bringing Pakistan’s number of absolute child brides to the 6th highest in the world at over 1.9 million.

Despite horrific statistics outlining girl-child labour, sexual abuse, honour killings and other systematic injustices – there is an apparent lack of will on the part of successive governments to do much about it. The heart of the matter, is a mind-set that accepts the infringement of girls’ rights, and recognises this as part of a normalised world order. Immediate and fundamental change is needed in order to undo a generational wrong.