Women’s day is celebrated across the globe for equality which often women struggle to get. Be it workplace or any other sector, women have to face various issues like unequal pay. And, to achieve equality in society, women have been dealing with consequences for decades now.
The situation is problematic in underdeveloped countries where women are forced to face all sorts of problems including lack of education, health, safety or much more. Although the concept of women empowerment has been applauded by many, there’s a long way to get equal rights for women.
Like other parts of the world, Women’s day is enthusiastically celebrated in Pakistan as well. While there are different events being organized in honor of women and to acknowledge their part in shaping the society, we have been seeing protests and rallies in different cities of the country for the past few years.
Women in Pakistan organize and take part in Aurat March on Women’s Day. This blog will discuss why and how the concept is getting popular with each year.
On 8th March 2018, Pakistan witnessed a protest in the different cities. Women in groups came out in Karachi, Islamabad, Lahore and Hyderabad. The protest has been termed as ‘Aurat March”. Women’s day hasn’t been the same since that day in the country. The protest was organized by various organizations in different cities. However, the sole purpose of the march is accountability for a violent incident against women. It includes everything from harassment to domestic abuse.
The participants are mainly women but men have been seen joining the March as well. The attendees bring posters and chant slogans. On the other hand, the response from the general public regarding the activity is mixed. There are people who oppose it whereas there are celebrities and other well-known persons that support it and make a statement in its favor.
It’s true that Women’s day across the world is dedicated to freedom, womanhood and independence. The scenario is quite unusual in Pakistan because women here are still fighting patriarchal structures, socio-political state and whatnot.
According to the marchers, Pakistani women face various social ills on a day-to-day basis. There’s systematic discrimination too. Women are struggling to get the most basic rights such as education, safety and freedom. The situation is problematic in many areas where childhood marriages are still common and widely followed.
When it comes to abuse, we have lost countless precious lives to honor killings. Many women are a victim of acid attacks and still waiting for justice. The safety and security measures for women are questionable as the number of sexual harassment has been increased drastically.
The organizers of the Aurat Azadi March 2020 say the reason for gathering and marching is to bring the attention of masses to these issues and make this society a safe home for women from all backgrounds.
Moreover, patriarchal and outdated codes of honor are still being practiced in much of our society.
The women have been deprived of basic rights for a long time like working outside the house or choosing her husband. When other women march for the rights of women who have been suffering in silence, they are tagged as feminists, which refer to hatred for men which is a mere misconception.
The organizers of the Aurat Azadi March 2020 revealed that they March to get equal rights for everyone as we seem to be influenced by patriarchy.
As mentioned above, participants of the Aurat Azadi March 2020 bring placards and posters with bold and blunt statements written on them. Most of these statements received severe criticism from people of different walks.
Last year, when bold statements like “my body, my choice” were raised, they didn’t only receive media attention but spark a debate too. On this occasion, chief of JUI-F Maulana Fazlur Rehman declared them vulgar expressions saying there’s no place for such notions in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
It’s worth mentioning that Maulana’s statement received massive opposition from the people who favored the Aurat Azadi March 2020. Multiple members of different political parties, women rights activists, civil society members and other intellectuals objected JUI-F’s stance and encourage marchers to take the streets of mega cities of the country.
Apart from this, we can see mixed opinions on Aurat Azadi March 2020 on social media. Not only the general public but well-known names from entertainment industry also voice their views on social networking sites. From Mahira Khan to Quratulain Balouch, celebrities seem to take great interest in the march and don’t hesitate to express what they feel.
On Television, chairman PPP Bilawal Bhutto fully supported Aurat Azadi March 2020 too which is going to be organized on this Women’s Day. He said that the March will take place and no one can stop it.
Aurat Azadi March 2020 is indeed a challenging concept that is why it has become a hot topic for TV talk shows too. It was turned into a controversy when a host on the local TV channel had invited scriptwriter, Khalil Ur Rehman Qamar, human rights activist, journalist and political commentator, Marvi Sirmed along with other guests.
He was expressing his disappointment over repeated use of vulgar slogans even after a ban imposed by the court. Marvi interrupted him chanting the same slogan that provoked him and yelled at her on live TV.
This incident sparked a whole new debate on the upcoming Aurat Azadi March 2020 and the use of bold slogans. The celebrities once again came out in support of Aurat Azadi March 2020 and showed sympathy and support to Marvi condemning the use of abusive language by a man who is loved by masses.
Moreover, tensions were raised when a local TV channel suspends Khalil ur Rehman Qamar’s contract. No doubt, celebrities called out him for his unacceptable behavior at the same time they encourage him to realize his mistake and apologize.
The participants of Aurat march express their opinions through various slogans. However, there’s one “my body, my choice” that received massive attention for wrong reasons. People consider it vulgar and they have different explanations to prove it. But, only a few people know that this slogan is greatly misunderstood and has taken out of the context too.
A well-known columnist, Bina Shah explained that this very slogan was first chanted by English women. They advocate for their reproductive rights and their bodies’ autonomy. When the organizers of Aurat Azadi March 2020 translated the slogan in Urdu, it became Mera Jism Meri Marzi.
However, people who possess a misogynist mindset seized and twisted the slogan. This misinterpretation of the slog has made it controversial to the extent where if someone talks about it people look at them in amazement.
Not only this, she further elaborated and said that the actual meaning of the slogan goes down to one word and that is “consent.” Therefore, when we talk about this slogan we talk about consent or permission for something before it happens. Moreover, this slogan refers to have more control over their bodies and no women should force into molestation, sexual harassment, forced marriage, pregnancy, prostitution or abortion, etc.
On the other hand, Aurat Azadi March 2020 and the use of blunt statements are often regarded as a feminist approach which is another controversial concept. Most of the people think that women in Pakistan are already empowered. They are respected and decently treated. According to a common belief, a woman who covers and obeys is an ultimate example of good woman. But, if someone dares to argue or question, they are often labeled as disrespectful or feminist.
Also, the countrymen seem to take great offense from vulgar slogans. But, no one is ready to have talk and practice consent which is needed ever than before.
8th March is known to be an annual International Women’s Day. The first gathering for International Women’s Day was held in 1911. So, it has been celebrated for over a century. Different sources claim that this day doesn’t belong to one country or a specific group. But, it is regarded as a voice of all groups collectively across the world.
Moreover, considering women’s cultural, political, economic and social achievements, a day has been dedicated to them. Not to mention, the gender-based injustice has been affecting the progress of women. So, advocates for women’s rights see this day as an opportunity to accelerate their struggles for gender equality.
International Women’s Day centers on advocacy, action, unity and celebration. It is being celebrated for decades and most likely to strengthen with time.
No one should be deprived of their basic rights. The misogynist approach and patriarchy seem to create hurdles in women empowerment endeavors. We see people opposing Aurat Azadi March 2020 but we rarely find anyone who takes stand against injustice that women of this society have been facing. If Aurat march raises challenges that women encounter on day to day basis, concerned authorities need to fix them as per law to create a healthy society for them
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