Women's Participation and Access to Mosques in Karachi, Pakistan

By: Shaheera Pesnani  

Historically, mosques have served as public spaces intended for communal worship. Not only have they played a significant role in creating a cohesive community but have operated as symbols of belonging and identity for the Muslim communities. However, men and women do not experience accessibility to and participation in mosques equally, particularly in the context of Pakistan. It remains a “contested” space that reflects the cultural and societal values of the communities in which they are built. It has been observed that in Pakistan fewer women frequent mosques to offer their prayers. A commonly cited cause by many scholars is that female presence in a mosque is seen as sexually enticing and therefore distracting in prayer, which, by extension, restricts women’s access to space and excludes them from the community-building process. While that may be the case, factors behind women’s lesser participation in a mosque are complex and multifaceted. In an attempt to understand the reasons behind the marginalisation and near exclusion of women in public spaces in the Pakistani society, a post-structuralist lens has been used which analyses women’s role, by situating it within the socio-cultural and political context of the Pakistani society. In light of this, the research explores the perceptions of young Sunni university-going women on their access and participation in mosques in Karachi, Pakistan. An exploratory qualitative study was undertaken to analyse the diverse perceptions of young women on the mosque as a public space and the factors behind lesser participation of women in mosques.

Women and Mosque, Sexuality, Accessibility, Religious Right, Patriarchy
The Politics of Religion
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Shaheera Pesnani

Post Graduate Student, Islamic Studies, Habib University, United States
United States