Gender discrimination can be defined as an inequitable difference regarding basic rights, including education, between distinguished groups (mainly males and females) of people in a society. Gender discrimination or gender bias is deeply rooted in the society of Pakistan, hampering the socio-economic growth of the country. The Global Gender Gap Index 2021, published by World Economic Forum ranks Pakistan at 153 out of 156 countries. The Index implies that Pakistan is the fourth worst country in terms of gender parity. 

Gender Discrimination: On the Hinge of History

There are multiple reasons owing to the systematic development of gender bias. Firstly, androcentric culture, all over the world in general and in the developing world in particular, is widening the gender parity. Secondly, menial and fewer educational opportunities for the young girls aggravate gender parity and ultimately leads to less employment for females- capitalist exploitation of females as enunciated by Marxist feminism.

Symbiosis Between Gender Discrimination and Unequal Education Opportunities:

Gender-wise, boys outnumber girls at every stage of education. According to United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) Annual Report 2020, 22.84 million out-of-school children include 12.16 million girls, which accounts for 55% of the total ratio of both boys and girls: depicting the synergy between gender bias and education inequality. Gender bias exacerbates education inequality and vice versa. Illiteracy among young girls deprives them of their basic rights because they are unable to get adequate knowledge of such rights offered by education or schooling.

Amartya Sen, father of the concept of Human Development maintains that “if we continue to leave vast sections of the people of the world outside the orbit of education, we make the world not only less just, but also less secure”. Lack of education gives birth to both social and financial insecurities among a large number of girls. The link between education and gender discrimination underlines the importance of the former as akin to basic human needs in the twenty-first century of human development. Gender-based violence both at home and at schools undermines girls’ right to education and poses a threat to achieving gender equality because it adversely affects the psychological condition of the girls which ultimately leads to their detention from schools. The subjugation of girls from a very early age leads to forced early marriages which negatively affects their maternity health-making them vulnerable to school dropouts. The androcentric culture of Pakistan sees girls as mere objects who are to be forced and deprived of their right to education.

Impact of Illiteracy among Girls:

Gender-based discrimination in education is, in effect, both a cause and a consequence of deep-rooted differences in society. Uneducated girls, who are to become mothers, cannot raise their children as effectively as educated women can. 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. Secondly, uneducated women cannot become financially independent in the age of technology-associated employments. They cannot perform better in raising agricultural income and productivity as compared to educated women. Thirdly, early marriages increase the infant mortality rate which could be avoided through education and awareness. Likewise, they are also unaware of harmful diseases like AIDS which can transmit to babies through breastfeeding and its risk of mother-to-child transmission can be reduced by taking drugs during pregnancy.

Pakistan in Dire Need of Girls’ Education:

“If you educate a man you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman you educate a whole nation.” These words of Dr. James hold greater significance for the education of women. They are the actual guardians who are responsible for the bringing up of children who later in their lives become the working class as well as the ruling class of the nation. International Women’s Health Coalition maintained that “all girls, no matter how poor, isolated or disadvantaged, should be able to attend school regularly and without the interruption of early pregnancy, forced marriage, maternal injuries and death, and unequal domestic and childcare burdens”. Schooling of girls decreases the chance of early marriages which in turn reduces the infant mortality rate by 5-10 percent. Moreover, educated women have the ability to immensely contribute to the economy through various means and can the pull country out of poverty. Nevertheless, education would also fill the gender gap by offering equal economic and social rights to women. It would decrease domestic violence as educated girls would be more aware of their constitutional rights. Not only is it impossible to achieve gender equality without education, but increasing education opportunities would stimulate productivity and reduce the number of destitute people.

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The author Abdul Basit Chattha is a Public Policy Graduate from National Defense University (NDU).