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BY 4.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter Open Access February 27, 2020

Women’s Activism in Pakistan: Role of Religious Nationalism and Feminist Ideology Among Self-Identified Conservatives and Liberals

Gulnaz Anjum EMAIL logo
From the journal Open Cultural Studies


This paper explores women’s activism and political engagement in contemporary Pakistan. In this exploration with self-identified liberal and conservative groups of women, emerged their experiences and narratives about Feminism and Nationalism with a common moderator being religious affiliations. In this qualitative and phenomenological exploration, the informants belonged to various self-identified liberal and conservative women-led organizations. To this end, 20 women (age-range 23-48 years) were interviewed. Results indicated that gender roles and feminism were seen very differently between the two groups; gender and national identity were closely associated with Islamic values and there was a negative association between nationalism and feminist ideology. Women from liberal organizations, mostly feminists, emphasized pro-public-sphere engagement of women, rebelling against religious fundamentalism. On the contrary, many self-reported conservative women proclaimed nationalist, anti-feminists (they did not identify as Islamic feminists) and pro-private-sphere engagement of women. Many of the liberal informants complained about Pakistan’s misogynistic society and hurdles they faced in demanding equal opportunities for women. This research has implications for gender equality and female identity in the context of nationalism, women’s mobility and entitlement to the public sphere. The study also has applied significance for prejudices and stereotypes that make it difficult for women, to break away from fixed categories of gender role expectations. This paper informs academics and practitioners on socially and politically engaged Pakistani women’s views regarding these narratives. The study concluded that women’s activism is influenced by their religious views and their religious interpretation of feminism and nationalism in Pakistani society.


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Received: 2018-10-31
Accepted: 2019-12-04
Published Online: 2020-02-27

© 2020 Gulnaz Anjum, published by De Gruyter

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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