8th march is the International Women’s Day aimed at celebrating the social, cultural, economic and political progress of women. Pakistani women have started celebrating this day as “Aurat March” since 2018, in order to ask for their rights and bring an end to discrimination.
“Aurat March” is fundamentally a protest held in various cities of Pakistan including Lahore, Karachi, Islamabad, and organized by women’s rights organizations, and any ,an or woman can take part in it along with a placard of his/her own choice. The marchers demand basic rights for women and their equality in our patriarchal male-dominant society.
“Aurat March” has received a lot of support and admiration from many celebrities as well as analysts across the country. However, it has also been criticized mainly for slogans and placards that did not seem graceful to general people and were further misinterpreted by some known media icons and misogynists.
The march initiated by upper-class women is being considered in negative sense. The prime cause is the slogans which either do not make any sense or are considered taboo to use in Pakistan.
“Mera jism, meri merzi” has been ridiculed and bashed a lot on social media as people thought it to be a rebellious and obstreperous notion against our socio-cultural and religious norms. Bina Shah, a well-known columnist maintains that this slogan is of English origin where women wanted to have reproductive rights and autonomy over their bodies.
The real meaning of “my body, my will” is that women just want to have autonomy over their bodies and not be compelled for prostitution, rape, sexual harassment, domestic violence, forced marriage, and all the evils agglomerated against them.
There were some other slogans as well that made people’s boil blood, for instance “Mujhe kiya maloom tumhara moza kahan hai”, “apna khana khud garam kro” etc. But again, as the organizers enunciate that anyone from the general public could take part in the march and bring placards of their own choice without being intervened by someone else.
Aurat March manifesto for the year 2020 is a paper of eight points demanding equal and equitable social rights for marginalized gender groups, built around the theme of “khud-mukhtari” (autonomy) to reconstruct the narrative on violence against our bodies, economic conditions and environment by both society and the state. Major demands include: end to economic violence, end to violence against our bodies, environmental justice, reproductive justice, end to state violence, inclusion and non-discrimination of socially vulnerable groups, protection of rights of religious minorities, democratic rights to ensure freedom of expression.
State of women in Pakistan
State of protection of rights of women is worsening day by day in Pakistan. This is evident from the fact that sexual harassment, rape, domestic violence cases are alleviating with each passing day. According to World Economic Forum, Global Gender Gap Report 2020, Pakistan falls at 151 position out of 153 countries in terms of education, health and political empowerment.
According to another report by Human Rights Watch, it was divulged that about 1000 honour killings happen in Pakistan every year. Yet another survey conducted by Reuters in April 2018 revealed Pakistan to be the sixth-most dangerous place for women, while ranked fifth on non-sexual violence, including domestic abuse.
Aurat march was a movement that spurred the emotions of some individuals, while served as a ray of hope for others to perish gender discrimination. It was a pre-ordained phenomenon as Pakistani women are facing a censorious phase of time, and when exploitation and brutality reach to their maximum points then a revolt is destined to happen. This march had a negative side as well but at least it paved a way for women to get justice as their preliminary right.