Aurat March: A misinterpreted notion in Pakistan
March 8th marks the International Women’s Day. A global event – the day celebrates the social, political, cultural, and economic success of women. The day also calls for an action to enhance gender equality and offer women (Aurat) the same legal rights as their men counterparts. Organizations around the world organize various performances, conferences, awareness sessions, and even ‘marches’ to honor womanhood and support their rights.
On this day, the women of Pakistan also come out of their houses. But instead of celebrating their freedom and independence, the women are faced with severe backlash for their demand of ‘Aurat March.’
Over the past two years, the Aurat March has been conducted to coincide with International Women’s Day across all cities of Pakistan. The march is organized by ‘Hum Women’, a collective group that stands against the patriarch norm of the society and demands inclusion at public places, work, and home.
Some notable personalities like actress Mahira Khan are advocate of the women march. In her official Twitter handle, the Superstar actor wrote: “As a privileged woman I march for those who are not in my position, who don’t have the basic rights that I have enjoyed since I was born.”
But despite giving a momentum to the feminist movement in Pakistan, the Aurat March comes with its own set of controversies.
Threats and harassment
Since the inception of the Aurat March, the participants and organizers of the march have complained to receive death and even rape threats. The women are also being harassed online and labeled as ‘bad women’ for coming out on the streets with ‘loud’ place cards
One such slogan that has caught the attention of many is the mera jism meri marzi (my body, my choice). The organizers of the women’s march claim that the tagline literally means that women want bodily autonomy and have the right making decisions that concerning their bodies.
But of course, the slogan is taken as a negative notion by the society and participants of the women march are facing criticism regarding it since the day it was shown on media.
In fact, we can all remember the last year when a video of a well-known cleric circulated on the social media for his claim for the right to rape women.
And this year is no exception.
A couple of days ago, writer Khalil-ur-Rehman Qamar appeared on a talk show to share his thoughts on the Aurat March. Debating against human rights activist, Marvi Sirmed, the renowned writer said that he found the place cards filthy. He also referred to the Lahore High Court and said that it was disheartening to see the LHC throw out the petition to ban such march.
The discussion became more heated after Qamar lost his patience and even threw highly inappropriate insults at Sirmed. This resulted in a serious clash between various group of thoughts who took to social media and news channel to distribute their views.
What happens in 2020?
Just like the past two years, the women are ready to fight for their collective struggles. The volunteers acknowledge the danger that will be ready for them once the Aurat March comes to a closure. But ‘taking action is the only way to overcome fear.’
The women are ready for their ‘Aurat March.’ Is Pakistan ready?