Pakistan was ranked second last in the recently released Gender Inequality Index 2022. Out of 146 countries ranked, Pakistan was positioned at 145, doing a little better than Afghanistan. The dismal ranking doesn’t come as a surprise, though. The statistics speak for themselves. According to the 2021 annual report of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, there were 478 registered cases of honour killings; 5,279 rape cases; 28 acid attacks on women; 753 domestic violence cases and 1092 female murder incidents. These statistics do not even include the cases of gender-based violence that largely go unreported. News of incidents pertaining to gender-based violence has become a normal recurrence, some calling the current rise in violence against women in Pakistan as “femicide”. One may expect that considering the dire situation of women’s rights in the country, the discourse around feminism may be more welcoming but that’s not the case. In fact, the debate around the concept resorts to crude understanding, oversimplifications and misinformation. Historically, the Feminist School of Thought emerged in the 19th century but the concept can be traced back to the antediluvian times. Over a period of time, the movement has evolved for the rights of women. The feminist movement can be divided into three waves. The first demanded political equality for women in 1926. The second raised the issues related to social and economic equality, including female reproductive rights, gender pay-gap difference and being safe from domestic violence. The third phase addressed the problems which women face globally, such as sexual harassment in workplaces. In the light of the recent “MeToo” and “TimesUp” initiatives, there is a debate whether the silhouette of a fourth wave of feminism is on the horizon. News of incidents pertaining to gender-based violence has become a normal recurrence. There are two main strands of feminist discourse in Pakistan. Islamist feminism appeals to the lower middle and upper middle classes, which turn to religion for guidance. Second, there is secular feminism, which sees feminism as a continuation of fundamental human rights. But rather than discussing and debating the substance around feminist discourse in Pakistan, the discussion narrows down to frivolous issues of “fahashi” (vulgarity) or feminism being a “Western” concept. Let’s be clear: feminism has nothing to do with vulgarity, and is not an anti-Islamic concept. The feminist movement in the country is meant to highlight the issues faced by the women, especially in the backdrop of a patriarchal society, which further disenfranchises women in socio-political realms. The movement isn’t anti-men, either. In fact, if implemented, it would address many of the issues faced by men in the society as well. Feminism doesn’t come at the cost of men’s rights. It calls for equality of opportunity and choice for both the genders to reshape their lives, accordingly. If we analyse the economic situation of Pakistan, joblessness and inflation are on the rise, and women are a deprived community. Men are usually the breadwinners, and there aren’t many opportunities for women. If there is a household where the women of the house are financially independent, and are given equal opportunities, it can make a lot of difference in terms of empowering the fairer sex. They could share the financial responsibilities and the burden would not be on a single earning person. For men, feminism can serve as motivation to change the mind-set toward more equal and cooperative relationships, better sharing of care and job obligations, and efforts to lessen domestic violence. There is another issue related to feminism. In Pakistani households, “son preference” puts many mothers under pressure as if it is in their hands to decide the sex of the baby. Women are being tortured and divorced if they give birth to a baby girl. One of the major reasons behind it is that a son is expected to financially support his parents in the future, and daughters are considered a burden. Many NGOs and institutions like Bedari, Kashf Foundation and All Pakistan Women’s Association etc are working to help oppressed women but these institutions are accused of misleading and “brainwashing” women. This bias must come to an end. Even at the workplace, Pakistani women have the smallest shares of senior management and legislative roles. If we take a look at the statistical data of women participation in workplace in Pakistan, the results are shocking. Knowing that 48.54% of our population consists of women, still there is very little inclusion of them in the workplace. Only 21% of Pakistan’s parliamentarians are women; Federal Education & Professional Training Division consists of 19.74% of the total female employees; Ministry of defence division has 36.86% of women in the administrative branch; National Health Services Regulations & Coordination has 8.32% women employees. Pakistan is at a crossroads. The current situation of the country demands that we address the issues facing women and include them along with men for the development and prosperity of the country. It is unfathomable that a country can progress without including half of its population. It is about time that Pakistan addresses issues pertaining to women and gives them equal status, rights and opportunities, as enshrined in the Constitution. The writer is a research intern at Islamabad Policy Research Institute. She can be reached at aimenmalik03 @gmail.com.