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How Pakistani women secured ‘Aurat March’ despite being labelled 'Anti-Islamic'

“Women are the beauty of our society. Then they talk about slogans like ‘Mera jism, meri marzi’ (my body, my choice). The perception in the world is that we oppress our women,” Azhar Siddiqui, Chairman of Pakistan’s Judicial Activism Council said. However, the feminists are all set to organize 'Aurat March' (Women's March) on March 8 after Lahore High Court on Tuesday gave a green signal.

Subhro Prakash GhoshSubhro Prakash Ghosh | Updated: 04-03-2020 12:51 IST | Created: 04-03-2020 01:00 IST
How Pakistani women secured ‘Aurat March’ despite being labelled 'Anti-Islamic'
After pondering over the long arguments between Nighat Dad and Azhar Siddiqui, the Chief Justice said, “Under the law and constitution of Pakistan, this march cannot be stopped.” Image Credit: Twitter / Friya Begum

Imminent Pakistan's 'Aurat March' (translates to Women March) is a movement and symbolization through which women are struggling for freedom from patriarchal society's extensive fanaticism. The hurdles in making 'Aurat March' successful on the International Women's Day (March 8) 2020 reflect the bitter truth that many of the feminist movements were hardly seen from the prism of success in Pakistan.

Here are a few numbers that will augment your intensity of support to 'Aurat March' in Pakistan on International Women's Day. In the Women Peace and Security Index 2019/2020, Pakistan ranks 164 out of 167 countries. The country also ranks sixth on the list of most dangerous countries for women. About 1,000 girls from religious minorities are forcefully converted and forced to marry every year mainly in Sindh and around 1,000-5,000 girls and women are killed every year in the pretext of 'honour' (honour killing). Locally called as 'karo-kari', the practice of honour killing is still today prevalently practiced in Pakistan, mainly in the Sindh region.

Organized in various cities of Pakistan including the big cities like Karachi, Hyderabad, Islamabad, and Lahore, 'Aurat March' actually refers to protests on International Women's Day every year. The march called for accountability for violence against women and support for women who experience violence and harassment at the hands of security forces, in public spaces, at home, and at the workplace.

A petition has been filed by Azhar Siddiqui, Chairman of Pakistan's Judicial Activism Council that claims that 'there are various anti-state parties funding the 'Aurat March' with the sole purpose of spreading anarchy in public.' In his petition, he has termed the 'Aurat March' 'anti-Islamic' or 'against the norms of Islam'. He has also stated it as ' hidden agenda to spread vulgarity and hatred'.

However, a renowned Pakistani lawyer, Nighat Dad, who also runs the not-for-profit organization Digital Rights Foundation, has defended the holding of the march in court saying, "You wrote in your petition that the march is anti-state, which is a very dangerous claim." In response, Azhar Siddiqui said, "Women are the beauty of our society. Then they talk about slogans like 'Mera jism, meri marzi' (my body, my choice). The perception in the world is that we oppress our women."

The Chief Justice of Lahore High Court, Mamoon Rashid Sheikh asked how many participants are expected on the imminent 'Aurat March' on International Women's Day 2020. The 39-year-old Pakistani activist, Nighat Dad said, "at least four to five thousand people including men, women and transgender people are expected to participate." "We are ready to give a guarantee that no actions against the law will take place at the march," she added.

After pondering over the long arguments between Nighat Dad and Azhar Siddiqui, the Chief Justice said, "Under the law and constitution of Pakistan, this march cannot be stopped. There are no two opinions about women's rights and it is the responsibility of the organizers of the 'Aurat March' to ensure that no immoral slogans are raised at the march."

The Chief Justice also ordered that the organizers of 'Aurat March' and participants must remain within the realm of the law and ordered the police to abide by the onus of keeping the march with 'foolproof security'.

It is pertinent to mention that the organizers of 'Aurat March' in Sindh's Sukkur city were threatened by religious political parties some days back. Head of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (F) Sindh, Maulana Rashid Mehmood Soomro clearly stated in a video message that the 'Aurat March' was intended at spreading vulgarity and nudity.

On the contrary, this movement portrays the real inhuman image of a country where women are not only discriminated in the pretexts of gender and religion, they are also harassed, abused and raped and the victims are returned with unfaithful justice. The feminist bodies carry out the protest on International Women's Day every year in Pakistan in the form of visual and strongly articulated slogans and creatives that yell against bigotry, gender inequality, crimes against women and inherent sexism still prevalent in the country.

However, there are some secular think tanks like Sherry Rehman (a politician who served as the Pakistan's Ambassador to the US from 2011 to 2013 and was the first woman Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) who said that 'asking for rights is not only valid in a democratic society, but also extremely important.' But the organizers of 'Aurat March' are still waiting for a strong voice to extend moral support to their movements.

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed are the personal views of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of Devdiscourse and Devdiscourse does not claim any responsibility for the same.)

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