Global Human Rights Defence

Gender Equality in Pakistan - The dark truth about women’s rights
Pakistani women have long been fighting for their rights. Source: DW, 2012.

Author: Marlene Pereira

Department: Pakistan Team

Gender equality “refers to the equal rights, responsibilities and opportunities of women and men and girls and boys” (…) “women’s and men’s rights, responsibilities and opportunities will not depend on whether they are born male or female” (UN Woman, n.d.).

This article seeks to answer the following questions; How is the situation concerning gender equality in Pakistan? What are the major inequalities in the country and what are the main reasons behind it?

Pakistan is the sixth most populated country in the world and yet it ranks the fourth-lowest for gender equality globally (The International News, 2022). Almost half of the population are women, and even being so, they are the target of the greatest atrocities purely and simply because they were born female, from honour killings to institutional discrimination and even kidnapped brides.

Why are women treated so inhumanly in Pakistan?

Pakistan is a patriarchal country that follows a male-dominated pattern in Pakistani society. Men are still believed to be stronger, braver and smarter because of their physical structure. This old and stereotyped idea that is so thick into Pakistani roots feeds the idea that a woman’s purpose is to be a future wife and mother. This subdivision of men’s and women’s different roles based purely on gender is one of the major difficulties for bringing gender equality.


According to UNICEF, 22.8 million children aged five to sixteen are out of school, with girls accounting for over sixty percent of these children. Pakistan’s education system has a 13 percent gender disparity in enrollment. Only 46.5 percent of women are literate, 61.6 percent attended primary school, 34.2 percent attained high school, and 8.3 percent attended tertiary education (Pakistan Today, 2022). 

Early marriages and teenage pregnancies are the main factors contributing to these numbers. Uneducated girls are not aware of their lack of opportunities, cannot become financially independent and cannot raise their children differently. “A woman who did not know her basic human rights, especially the right to education, cannot enlighten her daughter to get such rights which leads to greater gender parity among forthcoming generations and the vicious cycle continues” (Pakistan Today, 2022). 

Education is the key for a nation. If more development and assistance were provided to fulfil the gaps in the education system, child mortality, child marriage, adolescent pregnancy and malnutrition could be prevented. As a result, poverty would decrease, new job opportunities would be created, and ultimately Pakistan’s economy and human development would grow (Pakistan Today, 2022).


According to Dawn, in 2020, it was estimated that only 22 percent of women participated in the labour force in Pakistan, and the numbers are decreasing when compared to prior years (Dawn, 2021). 

The worse thing is many Pakistani women are home-based workers, and almost 12 million of whom are still denied basic rights (Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, 2022). Domestic work and other work carried out at home, like making clothes, shoes, and crafts, are considered “informal work”,  which represent 71 percent of employment in Pakistan outside agriculture (The Guardian, 2020). 

These working women receive less than the legal minimum wage without access to social security benefits or pensions. A home-based worker exposed the following reality: “I have been working in the bangles industry for more than 25 years. There are two main procedures – sadhai (alignment) and jurai (joining). The rates decided by the Sindh Minimum Wages Board for these processes are 20 and 40 rupees per bunch, respectively. I receive five to eight rupees for sadhai and 15 to 18 rupees for jurai.” (The News on Sunday, 2022)

Without proper education and lack of access to equal opportunities, women suffer from unfavourable societal biases and cultural practices feeding the patriarchy and the bases of gender inequality daily.


Pakistan’s maternal mortality ratio is one of the highest in the world. Poor young women, uneducated, malnourished, with inadequate maternal and newborn care, struggle for the survival of themselves and their newborn babies.

Therefore, the lack of access to education and a considerable income and employment opportunity has been reflected in the low social status and inequities in access to basic health care.

Women still face numerous challenges. Not only do they have not proper access to the health system mostly because their job is considered “unpaid care work” (particularly the large percentage of women who work at home), but they also face political barriers regarding heath – they have limited decision-making powers, household care responsibilities, restrictions on travelling alone, and the prioritisation of male family members’ health.

The scenario is becoming worse due to the impact of the pandemic. There was a noticeable substantial rise in overall poverty, affecting more women than men“more women than men are likely to be pushed into extreme poverty as they are often less prepared than men to bear the economic impact of such shocks. They typically earn less than men, reporting wages lower by at least 67 percent compared to men.” (IGC, 2021)


Pakistan ranked 153rd out of 156 nations on the Global Gender Gap 2021 Index by the World Economic Forum. It is considered one of the most dangerous countries for women regarding domestic violence.  (The News, 2022)

Since gender-based violence is not always reported, it is difficult to have a clear vision of the actual status of domestic violence toward women. A picture of what is happening in Pakistan can be estimated by the few cases that are made through the media. Noor Mukadam and her tragic death in 2021 have brought awareness and helped people raise their voices to stop femicide. “Beaten repeatedly, the 27-year-old jumped from a window but was dragged back, beaten again and finally beheaded” (Voa News, 2021).

Unfortunately, these atrocities and violent murders are still more often than expected. In a country where it is common for a family member, a father, brother or male relative to kill a woman to restore the family honour, we can only preview a long and hard battle for human rights. 

  • According to Human Rights Watch, almost one thousand women are murdered in Pakistan per year in what is considered an “honour killing” (Dawn, 2020).  


  • Between 1994 and 2018, some 9,340 people fell victim to acid attacks in Pakistan. 80 percent of acid attack victims are women (Pakistan Today, 2021). 
  • According to human rights organisations, almost one thousand minor girls are abducted per year for forced marriages (BBC News, 2021).
  • It is estimated that only 11 raped women report the crime per day in Pakistan. Only 41 percent of these crimes are actually reported to the police, and only 77 accused have been convicted, which comprises 0.3 percent of the total figure (The News, 2020).
  • As per The Economic Times, “60 percent to 70 percent of women suffer some form of abuse in Pakistan and about 5,000 women are killed annually from domestic violence in the country, with thousands of other women made disabled” (The Economic Times, 2020).

The statistics and data are alarming; gender-based violence in Pakistan is a major human rights  violation. Women are seen and treated as property, and due to the beliefs of a patriarchal society, every day, thousands of women continue to suffer. Women have to live in a society where they do not have the same opportunities as men in fields like education, politics, economy or socially, and are discriminated against just because of their gender. Women have no real protection or support from the government due to the lack  of institutional mechanisms to fight gender-based violence. Pakistan faces a major women’s rights threat, especially when the former prime minister explains the increase in sexual assault, violence and rape towards women as being partly caused by women, “If a woman is wearing very few clothes, it will have an impact on the men, unless they’re robots. I mean it is common sense.” – Imran Khan (Daily Pakistan, 2021).

It is a long way toward justice and fairness in Pakistani society. Still, this issue needs to be addressed urgently, at every opportunity, to fight for a better world for women, the future of young girls and a better place for human rights. 


Bandial, S. (2020). The ‘honour’ in murder.  Dawn. Retrieved April 11, 2022, from

Chaudhury, D. (2022). Over two-thirds of Pakistani women victim of abuse:Study.The Economic Times. Retrieved April 11, 2022, from

Dawn. (2021).Women workers.Dawn. Retrieved April 11, 2022, from

Daily Pakistan. (2021).  ‘Men are not robots!’ – PM Imran speaks about impact of women wearing ‘very few clothes’.Daily Pakistan. Retrieved April 11, 2022, from

Human Rights Watch. (2018). “Shall I Feed My Daughter, or Educate Her?”Barriers to Girls’ Education in Pakistan. Human Rights Watch. Retrieved April 11, 2022, from

Ebrahim, Z. (2020). ‘Moving mountains’: How Pakistan’s ‘invisible’ women won workers’ rights. The Guardian. Retrieved April 11, 2022, from

Khan, Z. (2022). The unseen forces behind glittering garb. The News on Sunday. Retrieved April 11, 2022, from

Khan, Z. (2022). Pakistan: Despite some recent progress, over 12 million women home-based workers are still denied basic rights. Business & Human Rights Resource Centre. Retrieved April 11, 2022, from

Pakistan Today. (2021). Growing acid attacks in Pakistan. Pakistan Today. Retrieved April 11, 2022, from

Rasheed, S. (2021). Reading the gender report. The News. Retrieved April 11, 2022, from

Shaikh, H. (2021). Has COVID-19 exacerbated gender inequalities in Pakistan? International Growth Center. Retrieved April 11, 2022, from

Thomson, M. (2021). Abducted, shackled and forced to marry at 12. BBC News. Retrieved April 11, 2022, from

The News. (2022). 11 rape incidents reported in Pakistan every day, official statistics reveal. The News. Retrieved April 11, 2022, from

Voa News. (2021). Brutal Killing Spotlights Violence Against Women in Pakistan.Voa News. Retrieved April 11, 2022, from

UNFPA Pakistan. (n.d.).Gender equality.UNFPA. Retrieved April 11, 2022, from

  1. UN. (n.d.). Concepts and definitions. UN Women. Retrieved April 11, 2022, from



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Coordinator - Tibet Team

Mandakini graduated with honours from the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights. Her team analyses the human rights violations faced by Tibetans through a legal lens.

Kenza Mena
Team Coordinator -China

Kenza Mena has expertise in international criminal law since she is currently pursuing a last-year Master’s degree in International Criminal Justice at Paris II Panthéon-Assas and obtained with honors cum laude an LLM in International and Transnational Criminal Law from the University of Amsterdam. She also holds a Bachelor’s degree in French and Anglo-American law. 

Since September 2021, she has been the coordinator of Team China at GHRD, a country where violations of human rights, even international crimes, are frequently perpetrated by representatives of the State. Within Team China, awareness is also raised on discrimination that Chinese women and minorities in the country and, more generally, Chinese people around the world are facing.

Kenza believes that the primary key step to tackle atrocities perpetrated around the world is advocacy and promotion of human rights.

Aimilina Sarafi
Pakistan Coordinator

Aimilina Sarafi holds a Bachelor’s degree cum laude in International Relations and Organisations from Leiden University and is currently pursuing a Double Legal Master’s degree (LLM) in Public International Law and International Criminal Law at the University of Amsterdam.
She is an active advocate for the human rights of all peoples in her community and is passionate about creating a better world for future generations. Aimilina is the coordinator for the GHRD team of Pakistan, in which human rights violations of minority communities in Pakistan are investigated and legally evaluated based on international human rights legal standards.
Her team is working on raising awareness on the plight of minority communities such as women, children, religious and ethnic minorities within Pakistan.

Lukas Mitidieri
Coordinator & Head Researcher- Bangladesh

Lucas Mitidieri is currently pursuing his bachelor’s degree in International Relations at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ). As the GHRD Bangladesh Team Coordinator, he advocates for human rights and monitors violations across all minorities and marginalized groups in Bangladesh. Lucas believes that the fight for International Human Rights is the key to a world with better social justice and greater equality.

Nicole Hutchinson
Editorial Team Lead

Nicole has an MSc in International Development Studies with a focus on migration. She is passionate about promoting human rights and fighting poverty through advocacy and empowering human choice. Nicole believes that even the simplest social justice efforts, when properly nurtured, can bring about radical and positive change worldwide.

Gabriela Johannen
Coordinator & Head Researcher – India

Gabriela Johannen is a lawyer admitted to the German bar and holds extensive knowledge in the fields of human rights, refugee law, and international law. After working for various courts and law firms in her home country, she decided to obtain an LL.M. degree from Utrecht University where she studied Public International Law with a special focus on Human Rights. Additionally, while working as a pro-bono legal advisor for refugees, she expanded her knowledge in the fields of refugee law and migration.

Gabriela is the coordinator and head researcher for GHRD India, a country, she has had a personal connection with since childhood. Her primary focus is to raise awareness for the severe human rights violations against minorities and marginalized groups that continue to occur on a daily basis in India. By emphasizing the happenings and educating the general public, she hopes to create a better world for future generations.

João Victor
Coordinator & Head Researcher – International Justice

João Victor is a young Brazilian lawyer who leads our team of International Justice and Human Rights. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Law from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and possesses over 5 years of experience in dealing with Human Rights and International Law issues both in Brazil and internationally, including the protection of refugees’ rights and the strengthening of accountability measures against torture crimes.

João has an extensive research engagement with subjects related to International Justice in general, and more specifically with the study of the jurisprudence of Human Rights Courts regarding the rise of populist and anti-terrorist measures taken by national governments. He is also interested in the different impacts that new technologies may provoke on the maintenance of Human Rights online, and how enforcing the due diligence rules among private technology companies might secure these rights against gross Human Rights violations.

Célinne Bodinger
Environment and Human Rights Coordinator

As the Environment and Human Rights Coordinator, Célinne is passionate about the health of our planet and every life on it.

Angela Roncetti
Team Coordinator and Head Researcher- South America

Angela holds a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) from Vitória Law School (FDV) in Brazil. Her research combines more than five years of experience conducting debates and studies on the rights of homeless people, the elderly, children, and refugees. Besides that, she also volunteers in a social project called Sou Diferente (I am Different in English), where she coordinates and takes part in actions aimed at the assistance and the emancipation of vulnerable groups in the cities of the metropolitan area of Espírito Santo state (Brazil).

Lina Borchardt
Team Head (Promotions)

She is currently heading the Promotions Team and University Chapter of Global Human Rights Defence. Her background is the one of European and International Law, which I am studying in The Hague. She has previously gained experience at Women´s Rights organizations in Germany, the Netherlands and Turkey over the past years.
She has been working for Global Human Rights Defence in the Netherlands since 2020. Her focus now is concentrated on the Human Rights and Minorities Film Festival and the cooperation of GHRD with students across the country.

Pedro Ivo Oliveira
Team Coordinator and Researcher

Pedro holds an extensive background in Human Rights, especially in Global Health, LGBTQ+ issues, and HIV and AIDS. He is currently finishing his Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations and Affairs at the Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerais, Brazil. Moreover, he successfully attended the Bilingual Summer School in Human Rights Education promoted by the Federal University of Minas Gerais and the Association of Universities of the Montevideo Group. Besides, Pedro Ivo has a diversified professional background, collecting experiences in many NGOs and projects.

With outstanding leadership abilities, in 2021, Pedro Ivo was the Secretary-General of the 22nd edition of the biggest UN Model in Latin America: the MINIONU. Fluent in Portuguese, English, and Spanish, Pedro Ivo is the Team Coordinator and Head Researcher of the Team Africa at Global Human Rights Defence. Hence, his focus is to empower his team from many parts of the world about the Human Rights Situation in the African continent, meanwhile having a humanized approach.

Alessandro Cosmo
GHRD Youth Ambassador
(European Union)

Alessandro Cosmo obtained his B.A. with Honors from Leiden University College where he studied International Law with a minor in Social and Business Entrepreneurship. He is currently pursuing an LL.M. in Public International Law at Utrecht University with a specialization in Conflict and Security. 
As GHRD’s E.U. Youth Ambassador, Alessandro’s two main focuses are to broaden the Defence’s reach within E.U. institutions and political parties, as well as mediate relations between human rights organizations abroad seeking European funding. 
Alessandro believes that human rights advocacy requires grass-roots initiatives where victims’ voices are amplified and not paraphrased or spoken for. He will therefore act on this agenda when representing Global Human Rights Defence domestically and abroad

Veronica Delgado
Team Coordinator and Researcher- Japan, Sri Lanka & Tibet

Veronica is a Colombian lawyer who leads our team of Japan, Sri Lanka and Tibet. She holds a master’s degree in Public International Law from Utrecht University. She has experience in Colombian law firms. Here she represented clients before constitutional courts. She also outlined legal concepts to state entities such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ombudsman’s Office on international law issues.

Veronica has an extensive research background with subjects related to public international law. She worked as an assistant researcher for more than two years for the Externado University of Colombia. Here she undertook in-depth research on constitutional, business, and human rights law issues. She was involved with consultancy services with the Colombian Army regarding transitional justice. 

Wiktoria Walczyk
Coordinator & Head Researcher (Nepal & Indonesia)

Wiktoria Walczyk has joined GHRD in June 2020 as a legal intern. She is currently coordinator and head researcher of Team Nepal and Indonesia. She has an extensive legal knowledge concerning international human rights and is passionate about children’s and minorities’ rights. Wiktoria has obtained her LL.B. in International & European Law and she specialised in Public International Law & Human Rights at The Hague University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands. Moreover, she is pursuing her LL.M. in International & European Law and focusing on Modern Human Rights Law specialisation at the University of Wroclaw in Poland. In order to gain an essential legal experience, Wiktoria has also joined Credit Suisse’s 2021 General Counsel Graduate First Program where she is conducting her legal training and discovering the banking world. She would like to make a significant impact when it comes to the protection of fundamental human rights around the world, especially with regard to child labour. 

Fairuz Sewbaks
Coordinator and Head Researcher

Fairuz Sewbaks holds extensive legal knowledge regarding international human rights, with a specific focus on human rights dealings taking place in continental Africa. She holds a bachelor’s degree from The Hague University in public international law and international human rights and successfully followed advanced human rights courses at the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria. She furthermore participated in the Istanbul Summer School where she was educated about the role of epidemics and pandemics in light of human rights.


Fairuz is the coordinator and head researcher for GHRD Africa. Her primary focus is to establish and coordinate long-term research projects regarding the differentiating human rights dealings of vulnerable and marginalized groups in continental Africa, as well as conducting individual research projects.

Priya Lachmansingh
Coordinator and Head Researcher, Political Advisor
(Asia & America)

Priya Lachmansingh is currently pursuing her bachelor’s degree in International & European
Law at the Hague University of Applied Science.
As GHRD’s Asia & America human rights coordinator and GHRD Political Advisor, Priya’s
prominent focus is to highlight human rights violations targeted against minority and
marginalized groups in Asia and America and to broaden GHRD reach within Dutch political
parties and as well seek domestic funding.

Jasmann Chatwal
Team Coordinator & Head Coordinator: North America

Jasmann is a political science student at Leiden University who joined GHRD in May 2021 as an intern in team Pakistan. Now, she is the team coordinator for North America and is responsible for coordinating the documentation of human rights violations in USA, Canada, and America.