Last year we witnessed the roads hailing the groups of female protestors (Aurat March) with controversial placards in their hands-on 8th March, which is officially being observed as Women’s Day across the globe. This event was one of its kind to be held in Pakistan and left everyone speechless as it hurt the sentiments of many among the masses even the women who declared it something going against the culture and religion. To go in the depth of this matter, you need to know first about what actually Aurat March is all about.
What is Aurat March?
According to the description in The Nation, “A movement emerged in the Pakistani political landscape last year by the name of Aurat March in the cities of Lahore, Karachi, and Islamabad. What was unique about the movement was its lack of affiliation with any political party or any organization. The aim of the organizers was to mobilize women at all fronts to ensure that the re-introduction of feminist politics in Pakistan is not limited to a particular group of women and to ensure an inclusive narrative which does not overlook subjugation in any form and in any part of the country. The marches in each city are organized separately by whoever is willing to volunteer for the cause of women. This year the march expanded beyond the three mainstream cities to Peshawar, Faisalabad, and Hyderabad.”
This March faced huge criticism specifically due to the controversial placards and all the stuff gone viral on social media. The participants of Aurat March tried to disseminate different perspectives towards the society for women as per the feminist school of thought.
What is the Aim of Aurat March?
As per the participants of Aurat March, the objective was based on a detailed manifesto which outlines the demands of the women including emphasis on sisterhood and solidarity, economic justice, environmental justice, accountability and restorative justice against violence, ban on police brutality, eradication of enforced disappearances, inclusion, reproductive justice, access to public spaces, rights of religious minorities, and ending the war rhetoric. Most of these demands are already rights guaranteed by the constitution but post the Zia regime, Pakistan witnessed a significant social shift which not only affronted feminist politics in the country but also resulted in a generation which was responsible for creating Pakistan as the sixth most dangerous country for women in the world.
The aim of this March is to manage bigger crowds each year so that the movement does not lose momentum. It is also an open invitation to male allies to join forces against patriarchal structures and to the institutions of the government to look beyond mainstream politics and to follow the demands of such political actors that stand up for the rights of the average Pakistani.
Shireen Mazari’s Take on Aurat March
According to Tribune’s news report, Minister of Human Rights Shireen Mazari condemned political leaders urging a forceful stop of the Aurat March scheduled to take place on March 8 across the country.
Shireen Mazari strongly stated in her tweet: “women like other segments of society have a right to peacefully protest [and] [to] demand their rights already enshrined in our Constitution”.
The human rights minister asserted the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government’s commitment to ensure an end to discrimination and harassment of women. She said the federal government has put in place programs, policies and legislative measures to empower women.
Aurat March & Khalil-ur-Rehman Qamar’s Controversial Interview
The all-time famous drama writer Khalil-ur-Rehman Qamar, who touched the peak of fame with the blockbuster drama serial “Meray Paas Tum Ho” got slammed for his controversial interview on Neo TV.
According to the reports, on a live TV show, Khalil Ur Rehman lost his temperament while using foul language for no apparent reason and started misbehaving with a Pakistani journalist, Marvi Sirmed.
The writer was on a talk show to discuss the aftermath of the decision of the Lahore High Court to throw away the petition trying to block Aurat March 2020. He was sharing why he thinks slogans like “mera jism meri marzi” trigger his masculinity.
While speaking up he addressed Marvi Sirmed, a fellow panelist and journalist, saying that when women like her raise those slogans his heartbreaks. At this point, from what it appears, Marvi tried to taunt him by saying the words “mera jism meri marzi” that unleashed the disgusting hatred from the misogynistic writer.
All this while, the talk show host kept trying to shut Marvi up and didn’t speak a single word for the one who was continuously abusing Marvi during a live show. Moreover, everyone is wondering where PEMRA really is when incidents of actual violence against women are needed to be controlled.
Khalil-ur-Rehman Qamar abused Marvi clearly during the live show which earned him disrespect massively. The celebrities including Mahira Khan took it to Twitter to express her fury against the writer along with many other social media users who bashed him for his behavior. People considered that it has revealed how Khalil-ur-Rehman actually thinks about women and the way he acts in real life.
For many, feminism may or may not be a thing to support on a personal level but abuse is a line that one never crosses. For a man who claims to be an intellectual, this behavior has left him with nothing further to be respected for.
Going through a twitter conversation, someone with the trending hashtag tweeted that “He should not have abused, but we can not ignore the fact that the man has got a great point. Feminism is a nuisance and a pain without any outcome. Men are more oppressed than women. They face a lot of challenges yet they don’t go and cry on the streets”
The Other Perspective
Another perspective regarding Aurat March signifies that if it is a call for the rights of the women of our society, then how the protestors can forget about the nature of the society we belong to? Well… we believe in the deliverance of equal rights to the women as that of the men but what calls for the slogan “Mera Jism Meri Marzi”? Are we at a loss to understand what are the actual rights of a woman?
The interesting thing about Aurat March is that the hooting and hollering participants are the ones who belong to elite and liberal backgrounds, enjoying equal rights and are independently enjoying in their gender roles. They dress up the way they like, they work in the way they want and still they think they are living in a male dominant society. No offense with this thought but they are already having all the rights for which they come out to protest on the roads. Alright… if it is even for those oppression stricken women living in small areas and villages who cannot enjoy their rights and many among them have been victimized to acid attacks, what does this Aurat March will be doing for them? One can bet that none of those women even know about what is Aurat March and what is feminism all about. So what is the benefit of all this happening activity?
Petition Against Aurat March’20 & LHC’s Order
According to the news reports, Advocate Azhar Siddique filed a petition in Lahore High Court (LHC) stating that Aurat March was “against the very norms of Islam”, that its hidden agenda is to spread “anarchy, vulgarity, and hatred”, and that “various anti-state parties present who are funding this Aurat March with the sole purpose of spreading anarchy amongst the masses”.
However, LHC wrapped up the petition while issuing orders that the Aurat March organizers should obtain a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the relevant officials and provide a statement of an oath. LHC Chief Justice Mamoon Rashid Sheikh also directed the district administration to make a decision on Aurat March organizers’ application to hold the event and advised the rally leaders to respect the constitutional and legal limits. “Slogans that may be hurtful should be avoided,” he added. “The rights of men and women in the Constitution of Pakistan are very clear,” the judge added. The court also remarked that in last year’s Aurat March, there were objectionable statements and “placards reading ‘Mera jism, meri marzi’ [My body, my choice] seen” to which, Nighat Dad — the lawyer representing Aurat March — said the organizers were not responsible for the controversial placards.
Opinion About Banning Aurat March
Any campaign or movement is being implemented with a proper strategy and a homework on the pros & cons with certain objectives to be achieved subsequently, however, Aurat March is nothing more than an addition to the noise in the society, one-day entertaining activity for the participants and a source of hurting sentiments of those women of the society who are not actually a part of the feminist school of thought. Moreover, this movement is deforming the basic essence of feminism by projecting the perspective in the wrong manner.
The idea of banning Aurat March was good in the sense that it could be reviewed for the objectives and then a proper strategy could have been planned accordingly while gaining the support from the society on the whole without any controversy.
If it is significant to keep going with Aurat March, the direction of the idea should be diverted towards those women of the society who are actually suffering and their voice should reach to such a level that something practically could be done for them to make them have a comfortable and free life.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official position or views of DND
An Article by By Salma Abbas