Gender Preferences in Pakistan| Girl a Burden – Boy an Asset

The term gender preference or sexual preference is used to describe the desire of biological parents for either a male or a female child. From the time, when as soon as a father used to hear about a girl’s birth, he readily agrees to kill her. He would hope that if a daughter is killed, the next child would be a son. Still, Pakistan remains one of the most male-dominated societies in the world and considers women as subordinates. In the patriarchal culture of Pakistan, women are often limited to doing domestic work and forced to hide the talents and skills they possess.

mothers are multi-talented

Recently, more and more women are breaking these stereotypes. They are doing the things that we mostly see as ‘only for men’:

Five Sisters from ‘Sher’ Family Became CSS Officers (The Real Face of Daughters)

In Pakistan, Central Superior Services (CSS) Exam considers being one of the toughest tests and only a small chunk of students can clear it. Also, it is seen as the benchmark of excellence. But five sisters from the Sher family proved that daughters are not less than the sons in away.

Central Superior Services – CSS                                              

The Central Superior Services is a permanent elite bureaucratic authority and the civil service that is responsible for running the civilian bureaucratic operations and government secretariats and directorates of the Cabinet of Pakistan.

Zoha Malik Sher becomes the youngest qualified CSS, making the Sher family proud (a family with no son and only five daughters) by proving that the intelligence runs into the family.

Zoha Malik Sher’s achievement came amid the worrying stats of lowest-ever success rate of CSS examination 2019. Her four elder sisters are already serving at various government posts. 

Zoha Malik Sher’s Sisters

Reportedly, the eldest of the five sisters, Leila Malik, passed the CSS assessment in 2008 and is currently serving as the Deputy Commissioner at the Board of Revenue in Karachi. The other sister Sherman Malik Sher passed the CSS in 2010 and is the Director of the National Highway Authority of Islamabad.

Similarly, in 2017 Sasi Malik and Marvi Malik attempted the CSS examination and both passed it. Sasi has been getting her training as the CEO at Lahore Cantonment. While Marvi is posted as the Assistant Commissioner Abbottabad. The youngest sister, Zoha, after passing the CSS exam has set a rare record in Pakistan.

Their father couldn’t be more proud. In an interview with BBC Urdu he said:

“When my daughters were born people console me rather than congratulating me. But I always knew that they will make me proud more than any son.”

Consoling rather than Congratulating on Daughters’ Birth?

That’s right! People feel sad when they find out that a person has five daughters and no son. When they hear that another daughter is born their eyes lose the sparkle. Suddenly, their festivity and happiness vanish. And they thanks to God that such a thing had not happened to them. Daughters are more of a burden to the family than anything else, they think.

And such a man, to whom God blesses with five daughters, is actually unlucky in the eyes of people around him. People will see him with pity. Not only this, but they will also make him realize in every possible way that what he has lost just because he doesn’t have a son. They will come up with all the advantages that a person could have with the birth of a son.

Why does a Female Child Face Discrimination?

In Pakistan discrimination against the female child is a function of cultural and economic factors.

 “In a culture where son preference exists, scarcity of resources may heighten the discrimination against females”

(Gupta, 1987)

Investment on a Female Child is Unproductive Because She is just a Liability

Not all, but most of the people always have one thing in their minds that ‘girls are liabilities’, whereas the son is a valuable asset. A girl child is made to realize that she stay in the house is limited. She can feel all the preferences that have been shown to a male child because his stay is permanent, and they are the inheritors of the family. This discrimination starts even before birth and continues until death.

“Bringing up a girl child is like watering the neighbors’ plant.”

– Girl Child

Male Child to be the ‘Economic Supporters’

When a family invests in a girl they already know it has no return. The girl will soon get married instead of giving any benefit she has to be given huge dowry. Son is an economic investment. Sons are economically and from a cultural point of view more desirable. They are going to be the economic supporters in the near future. So, there is no harm in investing in a male child because it will come back anyway.

Even in the present context of working women, who are financially productive. Social perception does not change because apart from a few initial years, for the whole of her life she earns not for her parental but marital home.

Lesser Opportunities and Authority

Most of the family structures work in a way that the girls grow up thinking they are inferior, entitled as lesser than sons in many ways; lesser power, lesser authority, fewer opportunities, lesser property, lesser status, and lesser or no choice at all. Customs and practices frequently make a girl the lesser child. It happens by denying optimum opportunities and means required for growth and development.

For a very long time, the ‘right-thinking people’ have been trying to fight this battle for equality of women mostly with the help of law. They seem to have forgotten that societal validation still has more authority than legal validation.

less opportunity for women

Dowry – A burden

Before a girl’s marriage and sending her to her husband’s house, her father has to collect a huge dowry, which symbolically makes the transfer of the burden from one family to another. She gets a treatment of another mouth to feed, a liability, and a burden. People consider her as lesser than her husband and, therefore to compensate it. She must bring a dowry with her to her husband’s house for taking the ‘trouble’ of marrying her.

Even that Islam prohibits dowry, still our society considers it a matter of great family honor that a daughter is married with pomp and shows even at the cost of the parent’s life savings, giving and taking dowry is still an intrinsic part of a marriage.

This context reminds me of what Helen Keller said:

“I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still, I can do something and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.” Eventually, change like charity would begin at home, and at the end of the day ‘we’ will have to be the change we wish to see.

Women are no lesser than Men

Taking into consideration the contribution being made to each and every sphere of life in the country, it certainly contends that women are not lesser essential to society than men.

women empowerment

Study shows that:

People think Women are either Equal or More Competent than Men

A new Northwestern University analysis investigated how gender stereotypes in the U.S. have evolved over seven decades (1946-2018).

The study, published in the journal American Psychologist, analyzed 16 representative opinion polls conducted in the United States with more than 30,000 adult respondents. These polls asked respondents to compare women’s and men’s competence (e.g., intelligent, organized, creative), communion (e.g., affectionate, compassionate, emotional), and agency (e.g., ambitious, aggressive, decisive). Most adults now report that women and men are equal in general competence. But among those who see a difference, most see women as more competent than men.

Women are more likely to take care of Parents at Old Age

Daughters who have young families of their own to take care of, becomes the sole caregiver of their aging parents. After conducting a survey, amongst female caregivers between the ages of 45 and 60 in the U.S and Canada, that 91% of female caregivers have had make professional sacrifices to take on the responsibility of caring for their parents.

Women are more likely to take care of Parents at Old Age

“Half of the women surveyed felt they had to choose between being a good employee or a good daughter,” said the findings.

Daughters end up taking care of their parents more than sons; it has generally been the role. It shouldn’t be that way but it’s a gender role that has been a reality.

Pakistani Women Breaking the Stereotypes

Following Pakistani women are breaking stereotypes like they should be!

  • Namira Salim is the first Pakistani woman to reach the North and South Poles and, as a Founder Astronaut for Virgin Galactic. Also, she’s the first future Space Tourist from South Asia to travel into space.
  • Ayesha Farooq is the first female to become a fighter pilot in the Pakistani Air Force. She also made history as the first woman who got assign to one of Pakistan’s front-line dogfighting squadrons.

“Instead of looking up to role models, become one yourself” Ayesha Farooq

  • Zenith Irfan is the first female motorcyclist to ride across Pakistan. After her father’s early death, she decided to fulfill her dream to tour the world on a motorbike. CNN has called her:

“Pakistan’s boundary-breaking motorcycle girl”

  • Samina Baig is the first Pakistani woman to climb Mount Everest and the Seven Summits. Also, the government of Pakistan awarded her the Pride of Performance. Last year, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) appointed her as the National Goodwill Ambassador for Pakistan.
  • Uzma Nawaz, the first female car mechanic in Pakistan. She proved everyone wrong that only the men can be the car repairers.
  • Justice Tahira Safdar is the first woman chief justice of any court in the history of Pakistan. Currently, she is serving as the Chief Justice of Balochistan High Court (Balochistan is Pakistan’s largest province).

Leave a Comment