Publication details

  • Wednesday | 23 Apr, 2014
  • Foqia Sadiq Khan, Saba Gul Khattak
  • Research Reports,Project Publications
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Saba Gul Khattak, Kiran Habib

Foqia Sadiq Khan


The crisis of development in South Asia in combination with the deepening patterns of conflict —political, ethnic, and religious—underscore the need to develop an alternative perspective on security in the region. We believe that one important initial step toward creating an alternative discourse on security will be first to privilege the experience and voices of women who speak from a women sensitive perspective on their security and whose ideas must form an integral part of a revised discourse on security. Such a discourse has already been articulated in its initial theoretical forms and now needs to be supported by country-specific data.

The purpose of this manuscript, therefore, is to bring a gender sensitive approach into the discourse and practice on human security in Bangladesh and Pakistan. Within this broad framework our specific objective is:

  1.     To provide an intellectual understanding of the concept of gendered human security through synthesis of academic discourse and scholarship, good practices and policies;
  2.     To document and analyze prevailing practices on gendered human security;
  3.     To contribute to the building of standards and norms of measuring human security by developing a conceptual basis for the rationale behind the need for a separate framework for women’s insecurity through the introduction of (direct and structural) violence against women into the framework. This is needed because the emphasis in the indicators used by different indices vary, and often ignore the direct threats and the structural discrimination women encounter in their everyday life.

This manuscript thus makes the case for reconceptualizing women’s security by highlighting the gender blindness of prevailing scholarship at several levels ranging from lack of data to lack of conceptual categories. We analyze women’s relationship with security from two major standpoints:



  1.     Women’s security as ensured/threatened by the state
  2.     Women’s security and the intersections of cultural norms and traditions practiced at the community and family levels, such as honor killings, bride price, anti-women fatwas (religious edicts), and domestic violence.

Keeping these two key standpoints in view, we examine the indices developed by multilateral agencies that take into account economic, legal, social and political rights in the public and private contexts.  We also connect the issue of insecurity with direct and structural violence[1] emphasizing that the links between these two types of violence constrain women’s options.

This chapter discusses the larger masculinist politics and framework within which human security and human development have been conceptualized and discusses both their mainstream as well as feminist critiques. The second chapter provides a lens into the political and social contexts in Bangladesh and Pakistan and locates different types of sectoral human securities in the two countries within the larger framework of political development. This helps place the multifaceted development issues confronting the two countries in their historical and current complexities. Although this chapter does not focus on gender as a category within the different sectors, it sets the context for our understanding of gender issues discussed in Chapter III. The latter brings out the different and overlapping ways in which women face insecurity at the level of the state, the local community and the family. It highlights the dual roles of the state in providing protection and exacerbating inequalities at the legal and social policy levels. This chapter also examines local customs that push women back and ensure that their status remains secondary within the community and the household. In so doing, this chapter also problematizes the public/private dichotomy that acts to the detriment of women. Specifically, the situation of women in Bangladesh and Pakistan is examined through indices of human development in each country, the extent of criminal violence against women such as trafficking, rape and honor killings, the legal and political rights ensured by each state. Chapter four presents an analysis of emerging trends in both Bangladesh and Pakistan, over the years and provides policy recommendations.

[1]  This was first explicated by the famous peace researcher, Johann Galtung, in 1969.