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Abstract

In the wake of Pakistani dictator General-Zia-ul-Haq’s Islamization process (1977-1988), the country experienced an unprecedented tilt towards religious fundamentalism. This initiated judicial transformations that brought in rigid Islamic Sharia laws that impacted women’s freedoms and participation in the public sphere, and gender-specific curbs and policies on the pretext of implementing a religious identity. This suffocating environment that eroded women’s rights in particular through a recourse to politicization of religion also saw the emergence of equally strong resistance, particularly by women who, for the first time in Pakistan’s history, grouped and mobilized an organized activist women’s movement to challenge Zia’s oppressive laws and authoritarian regime. This movement was to see the emergence of non-governmental women’s organizations (NGOs), feminist writers, activist theatre groups, human rights and legal aid cells, as well as activist documentary filmmakers with a common agenda for social change and justice. Using secondary sources, this paper presents a comprehensive historical overview of the feminist and oppositional developments that began to take shape during Zia’s dictatorship, and have steadily grown to make their mark in contemporary Pakistani society as organs for socio-political change and women’s rights.

Note on the Author

Dr. Rahat Imran holds a PhD in Cinema Studies, and an MA in Women’s Studies from the Simon Fraser University, British Columbia, Canada; and MA in English Language and Literature from the University of the Punjab, Lahore, Pakistan. Dr. Imran has held a 2-year European-Commission funded Post-doctoral Research Fellowship in the Department of Film Studies, Media Studies, and Media Education at the German Elite Research University of Bremen, Germany. Currently, she is completing her second book on Comparative Cinemas. She is an Associate Professor, University of Lahore (UoL), Lahore, Pakistan. Dr. Imran’s academic book profile is available at: Routledge Media, Culture, and Social Change in Asia Series, Taylor & Francis Group, UK (June 2016): https://www.routledge.com/products/9781138885769

Dr. Imran Munir holds a PhD and MA in Communication Studies from the Simon Fraser University, British Columbia, Canada; and MA Political Science, University of the Punjab, Lahore, Pakistan. Dr. Munir is the recipient of the Dean of Graduate Studies PhD Convocation Medal of Distinction in recognition of SFU’s most outstanding graduate student and dissertation from Faculty of Communication, Arts and Technology. Nomination made by the School of Communication, Simon Fraser University, British Columbia, Canada. Dr. Munir is an Associate Professor, University of Lahore (UoL), Lahore, Pakistan.

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