Countrywomen Rate Bhutto's Feminist Legacy

Ex-PM advanced women's rights; but not as much as hoped

By Caroline Zimmerman,  Newser User

Posted Jan 20, 2008 1:00 PM CST

(Newser) – Benazir Bhutto wasn't always a staunch defender of women's rights, but for Pakistani women the fight for gender equality is a lot tougher now that she's gone. Bhutto may have jump-started women's health care and job programs, but she missed opportunities to repeal harsh anti-egalitarian laws—failures her defenders chalk up to the demands of political compromise. "She walked the walk," said one. "We just expected her to walk more."

The assassinated former PM's contributions to women's rights were "cosmetic," one critic told the Los Angeles Times. But Bhutto was up against warlords and conservative mullahs, and a culture that still imprisons women for adultery when they report rape. Her mere presence was enough to challenge claims that women belong at home: "She emboldened all of us," said one woman.

Pakistani women light candle during a Christian memorial service for assassinated opposition leader Benazir Bhutto Sunday Jan. 6, 2008 in Lahore, Pakistan. Bhutto's widowed husband implicated members of Pakistan's ruling regime in his wife's killing and called for a U.N. investigation, as British officers aiding Pakistan's own probe pored...
Pakistani women light candle during a Christian memorial service for assassinated opposition leader Benazir Bhutto Sunday Jan. 6, 2008 in Lahore, Pakistan. Bhutto's widowed husband implicated members...   (Associated Press)
Supporters of Pakistan's slain opposition leader Benazir Bhutto light candles at Bhutto's residence in Karachi, Pakistan on Jan. 5, 2008. Benazir Bhutto's widowed husband implicated members of Pakistan's ruling regime in his wife's killing and called Saturday for a U.N. investigation, as British officers aiding Pakistan's own probe pored...
Supporters of Pakistan's slain opposition leader Benazir Bhutto light candles at Bhutto's residence in Karachi, Pakistan on Jan. 5, 2008. Benazir Bhutto's widowed husband implicated members of Pakistan's...   (Associated Press)
A woman supporter of Pakistan's slain opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, chants slogans during a candle lit ceremony, Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2008 in Lahore, Pakistan. Pakistani elections will be delayed until Feb. 18 because of unrest following the assassination of Bhutto, authorities announced Wednesday, ignoring threatened street protests by opposition parties....
A woman supporter of Pakistan's slain opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, chants slogans during a candle lit ceremony, Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2008 in Lahore, Pakistan. Pakistani elections will be delayed until...   (Associated Press)
Pakistani women light candles in front of a portrait of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto during a vigil at her Pakistan Peoples Party office in this Saturday, Dec. 29, 2007 file photo in Lahore, Pakistan. Many in the West eagerly cast Benazir Bhutto as an icon for Muslim women....
Pakistani women light candles in front of a portrait of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto during a vigil at her Pakistan Peoples Party office in this Saturday, Dec. 29, 2007 file photo in...   (Associated Press)
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