A Controversial Women’s March

Written by Fiza Shah

Are you ready? So put on your socks, tie your shoes and batten down the hatches for “AURAT MARCH (Women’s March).” Keep your posters high in the sky so that everyone can see your protest. Everyone is holding posters protesting in their way and different sounds echoing in all over the area like “Mera Jism Meri Marzi ( My Body My Choice),” apna khana khud garam krlo ( warm your own food), freedom over fear, equal pay, equal work, we want justice, we support feminism, etc. ahh wait! Must be thinking about what these slogans are? 

What’s exactly is going on in Pakistan? Don’t be confused; these are just some glimpses from the Women’s March named “Aurat March” in Pakistan. 

It was the 8th of March 2018 when the first women’s march was held in Karachi (the most significant city of Pakistan). This was the first time women broke the saying that – the proper place for a woman is her chaddar (Head covering) aur char dewari (and the four walls). 

The thought for the aurat march started when some women were chosen to prepare their networks and assemble within Karachi’s harbor city on Universal Women’s Day to find a solution to savagery and harassment. It has since advanced into a more extensive development, including transgender rights, requesting superior laws to secure ladies and their rights in general. 

This “snatch your rights” idea is inspired by the West and other foreign countries where every woman demands her rights and celebrates the 8th of March as an International Women’s Day. As a result, the ratio of feminists are on the rise in different cities of Pakistan. Now on the 8th of March, women, girls, transgenders and many men, come out of their homes and ask for proper security as well as demand equal rights. This results in a rapidly growing number of feminists all over Pakistan.  

Every year women from all over Pakistan gather and demand for their rights; not only do the local women support this new phase of feminism, but many celebrities, political leaders, and other famous names support the Aurat March. Being a feminist and protesting for one’s rights is not that much easy as it is in North America or Europe. Women are faced with strong criticism in regards to their dressing, as well as body shaming and being criticized for their slogans during the march labelling them as vulgar. The slogan, “My Body My Wish,” has been strongly condemed by religious groups as as a vulgar slogan. As an Islamic Republic, Pakistani culture does not allow women to encourage such kind of content. Even though some well-known people support the march, there is strong criticism from certain religious groups and men in general stand against the aurat march considering it as an influence of the Western society. 

As a result, talking about this critical content, Pakistani’s are divided into groups. The religious community of Pakistan calls this protest vulgar. According to the Molvi’s (Religious Leaders) “Aurat (women),” and men can not attain equal rights. A woman is created from the man’s rib-bone as per the religion and is considered a submissive secondary sex. A husband’s role is of the protector and maintainer of his wife. So the two cannot be equal.  

Islam and all Abrahamic religions have always given a higher status to men in comparision to women. A woman’s role is looked upon as a home-maker and someone who will always take care of her children whereas the man is the provider of food and security to his family! Even though the roles are defined, women are wanting to be free to do what they want without judgement. They are demanding the same status as men have for themselves.  

Mainly this march aims to make a safe and secure environment for girls and women who have been raped, abused, harassed, faced acid attacks, have low literacy rate, child marriage, divorced for the sake of respect, beaten by their husband, facing social evils, or just to do what they want to do without being harrassed or judged.  However some groups think that its better to stay within the outlined roles as that keeps the woman safe.  

Women supporting these rights and asking for equality and safety are living on the edge of danger; because of their boldness, they have received many threats from different groups, either political or religious. These women are risking their lives for the sake of march.  

The fact that women are incapable of requesting their human rights without being put in exceptionally genuine danger underscores just how imperative the “Aurar March Is.”  

According to the aurat march volunteers, “We are scared of acid attacks threats, harassing calls, bomb threats, but it doesn’t mean we will stop! These threats would not stop us from demanding. We will support our sisters and mothers till our last breath; we will try to change the culture and the environment we are living in; not every feminist is vulgar. I’m wearing shalwar kameez (Pakistani Traditional Attire for Women), my traditional dress supporting feminism and asking for our rights we deserve”. 

Why The Aurat March IConsidered A Revolutionary Feat For Pakistan? 

Aurat march has completely changed the mindset of Pakistani people in general. Where there are many leg-pulling communities and peoples, there are some men and some groups of people that support feminism in a positive way. These elements leave a positive impact about the nation as well as on the nation. After this revolutionary march, people are in the hope that things will change and they will enjoy the sunshine after the darkest nights. 

Introducing feminism and working for it in a country like Pakistan (an Islamic republic country) is a difficult task. All the women working towards this, either at local levels or on the big screens are asking for rights, equality, and safety. On a positive note the overall mentality of Pakistani people in general is improving. These small steps taken by a few women in 2018 has given a voice to the Pakistani woman. The increasing ratio of feminists in Pakistan will lead Pakistan towards a hope where every single woman will be allowed to live her life freely without judgement and with high security, safety, and ensuring.