Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis (Master's)

Department or Program

Master of Arts in Liberal Studies

First Advisor

Regine Rosenthal

Second Advisor

Zahra Ayubi

Third Advisor

Elizabeth Lhost


From 2020 to 2021, there has been an increase in violence against women by 255 percent in Pakistan.1 As a democratic state, Pakistan constitutionally recognizes its women as equal citizens but the fear of gendered violence acts as an effective deterrent to women to exercise their rights. My thesis explores the question, why Muslim women who exercise their rights are potentially subject to violence in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. An examination of this question demonstrates the historical roots of violence and their continued effect on the Pakistani Muslim woman as a citizen. Starting from the colonial period, this thesis maps the nexus of the evolving understanding of the ‘Muslim Woman’ to the present gendered laws of the state. It demonstrates and explores the gap between rights given and rights exercised by showing the socio-political conception of the term ‘Muslim’ and ‘woman’ in Pakistan. Narratives of women from the South Asian subcontinent have been cast in the mold of the female character as the helpless victim and presented as human-interest stories to elicit sympathy and pity. This disingenuous label of the ‘victim’ disempowers these women and takes away their stories of resistance and resilience. Keeping this in mind, I have drawn from primary sources such as interviews, documentaries, and newspapers to highlight the voice of women as visible, autonomous beings and to bridge the gap between theory and praxis by focusing on situated experience.

1 Sustainable Social Organization, “Tracking Numbers.”