Gender Empowerment and Women Domestic Workers in Pakistan

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference proceedingpeer-review


Domestic work is a major source of employment in the informal labour market that provides lively-hood to the disadvantaged social groups across the globe. It is perceived as work with low economic value and an extension of unpaid household duties that hardly get any recognition for the work performed. Historically domestic work for others' households has remained a principal way of earning a living for women. Affluent families in the developed and developing countries employ both local and migrant women domestic workers. Pakistan is one such developing country where women in large numbers are employed as domestic workers by the upper and middle class echelons of society. Yet of the eleven labour policies framed by various governments since the creation of Pakistan in 1947, none has addressed the issue of domestic workers, nor are domestic workers covered under the labour legislation. Through the lens of post modernist legal feminism and legal pluralism this paper attempts to deconstruct the role of law as a ‘site for discursive struggle’ by exploring the relationship between law, gender and empowerment in a legally pluralistic society as Pakistan. It advances the argument that women's lives are shaped by sharp gender and socio-economic disparities leading to unequal power relations vis-a-vis their employers, state and society. Access to justice through formal legal system is very often contingent upon the socio-economic position of the domestic workers. Women in domestic service have to negotiate the barriers of poverty and inequality before being able to employ the law as their ally. It is in this background that the paper questions the potential and efficacy of formal black letter law as a tool for empowering women domestic workers in their struggle against exploitative treatment in the workplace? As a critique of the impact of legality it attempts to find out what factors are at play, which limit the domestic workers‘ scope for legal action? What are the obstacles that hinder the implementation of the principles of equality and nondiscrimination? And finally considering the limits of law and by looking beyond formal law what could be the future strategy to address gender discrimination and inequality faced by the Pakistani women domestic workers?
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGender and the Law: Contestations, Limitations and Beyond
EditorsSibel Safi, Aycan Aras
PublisherLondon Centre for Social Studies
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic) 978-0-9570887-3-3
Publication statusPublished - 2015
EventGender and "The Law": Limits, Contestations and Beyond - Dokuz Eylul University and Gediz University, Izmir, Turkey
Duration: 4 Jun 20146 Jun 2014


ConferenceGender and "The Law": Limits, Contestations and Beyond


  • Women Domestic Workers
  • Pakistan
  • Informal labour
  • Legal feminism
  • Legal pluralism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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