"The aurat march will allow us to display unity"
To mark International Women’s Day, a Pakistani women’s ‘aurat’ march took place in Lahore and other cities across the country.
Many protestors came out on the streets to voice their thoughts on several issues – be it equal rights, honour killings, child marriages and harassment.
But as inspiring and motivational the gathering was, it was not appreciated by everyone across Pakistani social circles.
The ‘aurat’ (woman) march had been planned for quite some time.
In 2018, there was a successful turn out at the ‘aurat’ march in Karachi. And in 2019, the march was organised in all major cities of Pakistan.
What made this women’s day different from the previous ones were the messages and protest. There is no doubt that on 8 March 2019 patriarchy was definitely shaken and stumbled in Pakistan.
DESIbltz closely examines the Pakistani women’s ‘aurat’ march and its impact.
The ‘Aurat’ March
The ‘aurat’ march was more than just a fight against patriarchy. It united men, women, boys and girls of all backgrounds.
For decades women in Pakistan have been deprived of their basic rights. This march loudly and proudly demanded the rights on all scales.
The dance performances, speeches, walks, signs and messages were powerfully feminine. It was absolutely clear from all messages that equality means equality. That no gender or sex is above one another.
There was an outrage against the predominately male-dominated society — for all the right reasons according to the women and their supporters.
Since the birth of Pakistan, women have been sidelined and inhumanely ignored. This level of ignorance has been criminal, to say the least.
Everything that a woman does is seen from a microscopic perspective. The social scrutiny of women is ethically and morally despicable. It violates not just human rights but also discourages women to grow and bloom.
Alienation from education, inheritance, social security and support is all prevalent. The conservatism of society allows women and only women to be exploited.
There is no practical or social basis of a man to be in charge. There is no concrete scientific evidence that a man can perform better than a woman. Furthermore, there is no evidence that having a boy can be socially better than a girl.
Raising a boy or a girl should be done on the same social criteria. The separation of genders is not healthy or productive for any society.
In the 21st century, one cannot expect to flourish if they continue living in the dark ages.
The ‘aurat’ march was a continuation of the decades-long fight against anti-democratic norms against women. Fundamentalists, religious extremists, bigots, and patriarchs have made women suffer for far too long. Many women strongly feel their time is up.
The ‘aurat’ march across the various cities did not have any gender restriction. There were men, women and transgenders from all circles of life. This united front believes in equal rights and more opportunities for women.
Every sign board held conveyed one single message: the need for women to be independent.
An independent woman and man are what society needs to ensure the function of democratic norms. Only then can we ensure gender equality and progress not just in Pakistan but anywhere in the world.
How was the ‘Aurat’ March perceived?
The march was not just limited as a social media phenomenon.
It was celebrated in real life across the big cities. The photos and videos circulating around are evidence of the event. So many young and enthusiastic women and men shared their passion for gender equality.
Those who could not attend were also endorsing and opposing the event.
Those who supported shared as much as possible and encouraged others to join the event. International Women’s Day was an occasion for women to appreciate themselves.
The ‘aurat’ march welcomed everyone who supported and encouraged women to be independent
But not everyone was as satisfied, at least on social media. It was a typical case of ‘Us vs Them’ on social media
Anti-feminists were angry, especially with fundamentalists taking notice of all the signs and messages put up.
They believe that whatever happened at the ‘aurat’ march was against the interests of Pakistan.
Surprisingly many journalists went on Twitter suggesting that it was unethical, un-Islamic, and contrary to norms of society. Some even went as far as branding the march as a westernised idea or agenda.
Such people did not come across softly with their views. From trolling to making fun on comments, it was all happening on social media.
But the question here is why was such a peaceful and powerful ‘aurat’ march being subjected to trolls and harsh criticism? After all, even being able to voice their opinion is what many women are up against.
If a man can live as he likes, why can that not be true for a woman? Why are women still subjected as properties, objects, symbols of sensitivity and unintelligence? Why can they not enjoy the same privileges and freedom as men?
For this very reason, the ‘aurat’ march was held around the country. These women and their supporters felt it was important to have the freedom to raise their voice through a peaceful protest.
Kanwal Ahmed, founder of the women-only Facebook group Soul Sisters stated why such a march was important.
“Given the issues the average Pakistani woman faces – sometimes with nowhere to go – creating a space that recognises a woman’s right to be there is integral.”
Earlier, Key campaigner Arooma Shahzad speaking about the march said:
“The aurat march will allow us to display unity with other workers and women.”
Those promoting gender equality are open to the idea of having a regular ‘aurat’ march.
Whether it is harassment, underemployment, rape, abuse, violation of rights, honour killing, child marriage, no woman is alone.
The march was a symbol against patriarchal oppression, with some elements of society beginning to realise that.
The good news is that despite some against it, the march went on without any interruption or public disturbance.
It is interesting to note that the march was held for less than half a day.
It began Friday afternoon and finished around 7:00 pm. But the messages transmitted during this brief period of time had deep and meaningful consequences.
It is completely fair to suggest that the only people who were offended by the march were those who support male privileges or are overly conservative.
To call out someone’s wrongdoings is not a harmful activity. It is not pursuing any political agendas. It is only addressing the wrongs of society. Doing such a thing does not make one immoral or corrupt.
The ‘aurat’ march proved that women should be allowed to have a voice at the very least. And men who support them fully approve of that and also encourage women to explore their freedom.
It is not just about ending patriarchal norms but about securing a better future for the next generation.
Movements like #MeToo is a clear example of male abuse and arrogance. It has also highlighted the ignorance that men have displayed for years.
If not now then when will women raise their voices against male tyranny? Any place where people can defend honour killing is exactly where feminism is strongly needed and comes into play.
An independent woman is definitely a threat to an unreasonable man with narrowminded thoughts.
Women are not doing any crime when raising their voice against such attitudes. It is not just about them but the future of young girls and women to come. If nothing is done, history will not forgive the men and women of today.