This paper seeks to focus on the transformative aspect of women's participation in the contemporary peasant struggle in Punjab, the nature and extent of the transformation, and the variables that contributed to the change.
This research paper has been published in the South Asian Journal.
Shirkat Gah Research Director and UN Independent Expert on Cultural Rights, Ms. Farida Shaheed's Report on "CULTURAL RIGHTS, INTERNATIONAL LAW, HUMAN DIGNITY, DIVERSITY, GENDER"
Submitted on 22 March 2010 to Human Rights Council of United Nations General Assembly
In this report to the Human Rights Council, UN Independent Expert in the field of cultural rights Farida Shaheed stressed that at “the heart of this mandate is the relationship between cultural rights, cultural diversity, and the universality of human rights.”
“I firmly believe that when grounded in existing norms and principles of international human rights law, cultural rights enrich our understanding of the principle of universality of human rights by taking into consideration cultural diversity,” Shaheed said on 31 May when presenting her first report to the Human Rights Council.
She said that cultural rights “are pivotal to the recognition and respect of human dignity.” “They protect the rights of each person –- be it individually, in community with others, or as groups -- to develop and express their humanity, world visions, meanings assigned to life and understanding of development.”
Cultural rights also include the right to question the existing parameters of ‘culture’, to opt in or out of particular cultural entities, and to continuously create new culture.
“It is the responsibility of States to ensure open spaces for debate and discussion within all communities as well as an environment in which all people can enjoy cultural rights, without discrimination based on their particular identities,” said Shaheed.
The Independent Expert has identified two priority issue areas to address, which include cultural rights: globalization and development processes, and participation and contribution to cultural life without discrimination.
Gender, Religion and the Quest for Justice in Pakistan
Farida Shaheed Shirkat Gah - Women's Resource Centre, Lahore, Pakistan
This paper explores how Islam transformed from the religious identity of Pakistan’s majority population (the raison d’être of its existence as a nation for Muslim Indians), to become the central defining parametres for state and society, reviewing the factors and forces that led to religion’s inscription. This privileging of religion as the yardstick for all activities from politics to judicial structures, from entertainment to women’s rights has undermined women’s already weak position in society and seriously challenges the quest for gender equality. Section 1 gives the political context and the material conditions of women’s disparate realities and the many other social inequalities in Pakistan that intersect with gender. Section 2 explains through historical analysis the processes whereby religion and politics were closely fused; Section 3 explores the implications of this interfacing for women’s rights and gender inequality. Section 4 problematizes the role of civil society in this process and questions some of the facile assumptions that are often made about the socially-progressive role of civil society actors. The final section provides some overarching conclusions. In the paper I make the following arguments: The disempowerment of women has been the outcome, not the purpose, of ‘Islamization’ projects which have been executed in the pursuit of greater power alignments, women have suffered due to their pre-existing disempowered positions. The usage of Islam by diverse regimes has not impacted women in like manner. Women were victims of gross negligence and paternalistic attitudes but rescinding women’s rights was never a main objective until General Zia-ul-Haq (1977-1988). Under Zia the systematic and aggressive inscription of Islam into the body politic and social fabric had devastating consequences for the polity in general and women and non-Muslims in particular. His era thus marks a qualitative realignment of forces. Gender cross-sects other deeply entrenched social inequalities so that ‘Islamization’ measures have impacted diverse groups of women differently. Further, the pursuit of gender equality is greatly impeded by the vast chasm separating de facto from de jure rights in Pakistan thanks to which only a small minority of women knows of their rights. The fewer the people who enjoy rights, the more vulnerable they become. The state’s failure to deliver on its promises of equal opportunities, benefits and justice has created a vacuum into which the religious right inserted itself and was able to project itself as the harbinger of justice in a visibly unjust world. In the final analysis, regardless of the claims to the moral high ground of authenticity, the paramount concern of religious political projects is power – not religion, or ethnicity, or culture.
A Comprehensive review of the major research studies on abortion undertaken in Pakistan. Highlighting the linkages between unplanned pregnancies and unsafe abortion it provides valuable information for health care providers and policy makers.
Constructing Identities - Culture, women's agency, and the Muslim world
by Farida Shaheed
With special reference to the Muslim world and the experience of the international network for information, solidarity, and support: Women Living Under Muslim Laws, this paper looks at the intersecting dynamics of power and identity as these relate to struggles for women's empowerment