March 3, 2021
Aurat March has issued its charter of demands for 2021 ahead of its annual rally on March 8, International Women’s Day. This year’s theme “Patriarchy ka Pandemic” tackles healthcare and patriarchy which inherently affect women, non-binary individuals and the trans community in Pakistan.
Under its charter of demands, Aurat March calls for allocating five percent of the GDP in the 2021-2022 fiscal budget to the health budget, with information on the amounts allocated to the reproductive, mental and rehabilitative health of women and the transgender community.
Furthermore, the movement demanded that the provincial governments make public the details state’s expenditure on reproductive health by March 8, as well as plans for addressing the challenges faced by women and gender minorities during the COVID-19 crisis.
Regarding the pandemic situation itself, Aurat March demanded that the government’s ongoing COVID-19 inoculation drive consider vaccine accessibility for all classes, genders, and religious and ethnic minorities.
Other demands included in the charter are as follows:
- End to privatization of healthcare, and provision of universal healthcare to all
- State investment in rehabilitative programs to manage long-term effects of gender-based violence
- Removal of chemical castration as a punishment in the Anti-Rape Ordinance 2020, as it is rooted in the faulty notion that rape is a crime of sexual desire rather than abuse of power
- Recognition of domestic work and women’s ‘informal’ contribution to the ‘care economy’ as labor equal to other types of work
- Investment in rehabilitation services and facilities rather than punitive measures to address drug usage and addiction
- Universal access to modern contraceptive methods for all
- Inclusion of consent-based Life Skills-Based Education (LSBE) in primary and secondary school curricula to create awareness and prevent child abuse
- Recognition of forced gender-reassignment surgeries particularly for intersex individuals as a form of sexual and gender-based violence
- Access to safe abortion facilities
- Subsidization of menstrual hygiene products
- Formation of functional sexual harassment committees under the Protection against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act, 2010 in all medical facilities. The Act should be amended to include harassment faced by patients and to clearly include public and private areas outside of the workplace under the law’s ambit
- Equitable access to healthcare services for the transgender community and Khawaja Siras. Furthermore, the State should also allocate resources, i.e. sensitization training, to ensure that the misgendering and discrimination within the medical community are corrected
- Recognition of air and water pollution as health and environmental emergencies, particularly endangering the health of the marginalized and vulnerable communities
- Establishment of a public national clinical trial registry in Pakistan as mandated by section 20 of Bio Study Rules 2017 and which meets the WHO’s criteria of Primary registries
Aurat March rallies will take place in Karachi, Hyderabad, Lahore and Multan on International Women’s Day, while protesters will take to the streets of Islamabad and Quetta under the banner of the Aurat Azadi March, organized by the socialist-feminist collective Women Democratic Front. Although there is yet no word from Peshawar, it is likely that there will be no rally in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s capital due to security concerns as was the case last year.