–Participants hold rallies in Lahore, Karachi, Islamabad, Quetta, demand equal rights, end to violence against women
–Organisers say made extensive efforts to make the march more inclusive
LAHORE/ISLAMABAD/KARACHI: Thousands of Pakistan women celebrated International Women’s Day by holding Aurat March in major cities of the country to demand equal rights and justice against sexual violence, harassment at homes and public spaces.
The Aurat March, as it has come to be known since its first iteration in 2018, was organised by Hum Aurtain, a feminist collective. It has a manifesto demanding basic rights for women in each field of life. This year, the Aurat March’s manifesto revolved around khud-mukhtari (independence) of women.
In Lahore, the marchers gathered outside the Lahore Press Club and passed through Egerton Road to culminate outside Aiwan-e-Iqbal. Participants were in a jovial mood and held a plethora of eye-catching placards.
Alina, who works in the development sector, explained the importance of social activism as it led to affirmative action and pressed the government into making legislative changes at a quicker pace.
In response to a question on the criticism that the march was not inclusive last year, she said, “This year we had an extensive outreach programme. This march is not a spontaneous event, it is the result of extensive research and effort on the part of the organisers who reached out to poor and marginalised communities to make sure this year’s march had more representation than before.”
“We are glad the conduct of male allies is what was expected. They are staying in the back and letting us speak,” she commented on the participation of a large number of men in the rally.
Despite the social media storm before the march, where men and women were pitted against each other, men were present in large numbers in support of the Aurat March.
Asad, a 22-year-old student, solemnly held up a placard stating “A man must march silently today so no man yells at a woman of tomorrow”.
Explaining the motivation behind his poster and his participation in the march, Asad simply stated that he wanted to contribute to the women’s empowerment cause.
Huda, a 27-year-old lawyer was tired of the subtle sexism, said: “I march because people assume it’s okay to question my career, my life choices, even my weight; just because I am woman, they think they have a right to have a say in my life.”
The march was also well attended by celebrities, social justice activists and academicians alike.
Nayab Gohar Jan, a famed activist, entrepreneur, and journalist, showed her happiness at the huge turnout at the march and stated, “This year’s march is a huge success despite the negative propaganda.”
Meanwhile, a resolution was submitted in the Punjab Assembly by PML-N MPA Kanwal Liaquat, demanding an end to gender discrimination. The resolution condemned under-age marriages and demanded that women be granted legal, social and economic protection.
— عورت مارچ لاہور – Aurat March Lahore (@AuratMarch) March 8, 2020
The Aurat March began at 03:00 pm in the federal capital.
Separately, female members of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) held a march outside the National Press Club. The participants reached China Chowk from the National Press Club where the party chief Sirajul Haq addressed the gathering. The participants of the JI march reached China Chowk from the National Press Club where JI chief Sirajul Haq addressed the gathering.
During his address, Haq said that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) should not name any hopeful who as a male does not give his sister her inheritance rights. “In the future, I will not give a party ticket to any man who doesn’t give his sister her rights,” he said.
Although the authorities had erected a tent between the two marches in order to avoid clashes, after the Jamia Hafsa students ended their march, the male participants took down the tent and started throwing stones, injuring at least one member of the Aurat March. However, the police soon brought the situation under control.
The incident was condemned by the organisers of Islamabad’s Aurat March, who questioned the security measures taken by authorities for the event.
Hats off to everyone who came today at #AuratMarch2020 in Islamabad and strengthened it, despite the threats and risks. And everyone else supporting us world wide. Also, hats off to @Tooba_Sd and @AmmarRashidT for organising and leading from both the front and behind.
— Nimra Zulfiqar Ahmed (@nimrazulfi) March 8, 2020
In Karachi, advocates of women’s rights held the Aurat March outside Frere Hall. Pakistan People’s Party-Shaheed Bhutto leader Ghinwa Bhutto also arrived at the venue to participate in the march.
A spokesperson for the Sindh government Barrister Murtaza Wahab also participated in the Aurat March with his family.
Hum kya chahte hain AZADI!
ہم کیا چاہتے ہیں آزادی pic.twitter.com/cLhPf6fxSe
— Aurat March – عورت مارچ (@AuratMarchKHI) March 8, 2020
A march was also held by members of the Home Based Women Workers Federation (HBWWF) from Arts Council to Karachi Press Club. Participants of the march, led by HBWWF general secretary Zahra Akbar Khan, demanded financial autonomy for women as well as protection against workplace harassment and discrimination.
A ‘Haya March’ was also held at Teen Talwar by the Pakistan Tahaffuz Movement.
Aurat March was held from Lub Mehran to the Sukkur Press Club in Sukkur. Women actively participated in the march amid strict security measures.
On Saturday night, a rally was held on Saturday night in Sukkur during which participants carried torches. Delegations from various organisations from Karachi, Hyderabad, Khairpur, Shikarpur and other areas had participated in the event.
The Women’s Alliance organised the Aurat March in Quetta on Sunday. A large number of women participated in the rally that began at the Quetta Press Club. Protesters demanded equal rights for the women in society during the rally and vowed to continue to fight against harassment and acid attacks.