International Women’s Day 2020 saw the women of Pakistan organize the 3rd edition of the Aurat March.
Simultaneous marches took place across the country, in demand for gender equality.
WHAT IS AURAT MARCH?
Women’s March, as it is in English, the annual march organised in Pakistan to bring attention to women’s issues. This year’s march was the 3rd edition of the same. It was organized by Hum Aurtein, Women’s Action Forum, and Women’s Democratic Front. Hum Aurtein is a feminist group. WAF and WDF are a women’s rights organisation, and a socialist-feminist organisation, respectively.
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The theme for this year’s march was “Mera Jism, Meri Marzi” (My body, my choice). The current society can be described as one with patriarchal structures that control economic resources in favour of men. It also takes away from women control over their own bodies. According to the organizers, Aurat March 2020 sought to fight that very society. Furthermore, it sought to fight sexist portrayal of women in the media, end harassment, and forced religious conversions.
Conversions about women’s rights have been gaining traction in Pakistan. The number of protests in the country have risen, and they’re not just women’s protests. These protests are by students demanding the reinstatement of student unions and ethnic groups demanding their rights.
But, as is the reaction to all change, Aurat March has dealt with its own share of backlash.
WHAT BACKLASH HAS IT RECEIVED?
Women demanding their rights is never accepted silently. Their oppressors push back, often citing their concerns as illegitimate. This is exactly what happened with the Aurat March.
There have been politicians and religious individuals opposing these marches.
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An uncommon form of backlash these marches have received is legal action.
3 petitions, including one by Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (F) and Umme Hassan, were filed to stop these marches. JUI- F is a religious right-wing political party, and Hassan is the wife of Islamabad’s Lal Masjid’s Muslim leader.
One of the petitioners also argued that these marches were part of a Western agenda, whose aim was to ruin the culture of Pakistan. He also asked if there had been discrimination against women in Pakistan “other than a few places”.
Maulana Fazl ur Rehman, the leader of the (JUI-F), also asked law enforcement bodies to take action to stop the marches.