Sameena Nazir lives and works in Pakistan fighting for women’s rights. The Women’s Studies program at the University of Pittsburgh brought her to the city to discuss her work and the challenges currently faced by women all over the world.
“We should not have different standards. We should not say, ‘Oh, these rights are applicable in the U.S. but are not applicable in Pakistan,’ that’s not helpful. So Democratic governments in other countries should be protected and supported and we should all join hands,” said Nazir.
In Pakistan, recent years have brought positive change. More laws have been passed to protect women and girls from forced marriages and having acid thrown on them, among other things. There is also an active women parliamentarian caucus in Pakistani government, which works across parties pushing for women’s rights.
Nazir said laws must be clear, though simply making and passing laws isn’t the end of the road, as there is a large challenge to educate rural communities about the laws.
“Pakistan is largely a rural country. The literacy rate is 40% and it’s less for women. We have to inform the villagers, the women, the farmers, people living in isolated areas, that there are these laws,” she said, and added that things such as acid throwing and forced marriages are against the law and should not be seen as accepted customs and traditions.
But Pakistan is not the only country with issues regarding women’s rights. Though not as severe, many other countries still struggle. Nazir points to the U.S. and the recent flap over contraception, in particular, Rush Limbaugh’s now-infamous remarks about a female law student who advocates for contraception.
“I think that it’s a dangerous development when women’s agreed-upon rights and freedoms are infringed and when there is an effort to take back the rights women have gained after a lot of struggle. It’s a very dangerous development,” said Nazir.
Along with her speaking tour, Nazir is in the U.S. to participate at the Commission on the Status of Women at the U.N. Next, she heads to Des Moines and St. Louis before going back to Pakistan.