In Masuma Hasan’s interview she discussed many of the difficulties involved with women as political actors in Pakistan. Some of the major challenges include voter fraud, low literacy rates, intimidation factors and the cost of an ID card. Masuma Hasan makes it very clear that the women of Pakistan are forced to deal with violence near the polls on voting days. This violence is often times committed by extremely conservative groups, who feel as though women should not be allowed the vote. This intimidation factor leaves women feeling scared for their own well being at the voting polls and results in less women turning out to vote. Aside from violence at the polls, “one of the greatest problems which women face in respect to participation in politics, is that of mobility” (Masuma Hasan). Hasan demonstrates that in order to have political participation one must have mobility in order to move from the home to the voting polls. The challenge of lack of mobility has been a large barrier that women as well as men face during election periods in Pakistan.
Personally, I feel that the greatest challenge these women had to overcome was the Hudood Ordinance which was enacted in 1979 as part of the military ruler’s “Islamization” process. This ordinance made it so that extramarital sex was illegal as well as accusing someone of having extramarital sex. This made it impossible for women to prove an allegation of rape, as the law required four adults to witness the act of penetration. Essentially men could rape the women of Pakistan with little to no consequences. This ordinance was finally changed in 2006 by the Women’s Protection Bill. Many politicians and religious scholars often debate this controversial topic; one argument is that women fearing conviction under “Section 10(2)”, merely bring charges of rape against their male partners, which would result in the male being accused and the female being “exonerated of wrongdoing due to reasonable doubt rule”. I have a hard time believing that this law was created to protect men’s rights, and feel that it was enacted in order to suit men’s interests in taking advantage of women.
Despite these challenges, Masuma Hasan seems to be confident that advancement in terms of women’s involvement in government in will continue to occur. She strongly believes that the effects of women’s participation in politics are starting to be seen, and that more women are participating in politics within Pakistan.