March 8th, 2022
By Umar Bacha
Speakers at the Aurat Azadi Jalsa have voiced strong opposition to anti-encroachment operations and eviction drives in slum areas terming such government measures as an act of terrorism against poor and vulnerable dwellers.
A large number of women from slum areas, activists, and transgender persons participated in the Aurat Azadi Jalsa at F-9 Park in Islamabad organized two days ahead of the International Women’s Day on March 8. The participants carried banners and chanted slogans in support of women’s rights.
The public gathering was based on the theme of ‘A city for all. According to the organizers, cities are a place of possibility, but also a place of oppression. “In the pursuit of development, the city tends to marginalize other forms of living, dispossessing the very people who built it and are its backbone,” the Aurat March Islamabad said.
Women, residents of the H-9 Katchi Abadi, spoke about countless people being displaced from their own homes in the demolition operation. They said people deserve not to be thrown out of their homes for a road.
“Our charter of demands for the last four years has been that women should be given equality,” a woman participant told Voicepk.net. “The women should get respect in society and given their share in inheritance,” she said, adding that legislation should be enforced strictly against sexual harassment and honor killings of women in the country.
The public gathering featured speeches, panel discussions, theatre performances, and songs on women’s freedom.
A large number of transgender persons also attended the gathering to highlight the grievances of their community. According to activists, the transgender community lived in extremely difficult conditions. They do not have access to housing, education, employment, and old-age support.
“Along with women, members of the transgender community have also started raising their voice for their rights,” a representative of the transgender community said. “The transgender persons have been coming to the Aurat March for the last four years because they also want their rights,” the representative said, adding that the federal capital belonged to all and was not a fiefdom.
The right of inheritance was one of the biggest issues facing transgender persons in the country, another representative of the transgender community told Voicepk.net. “Our religion and the Constitution gives the right of inheritance to transgender persons but parents and society at large are not ready to do so,” the transgender activist pointed out. “Parents often exclude transgender children in their family registration documentations, making it impossible for them to get their inheritance,” the activist explained.
“It is even more difficult for transgender persons who have a Guru as guardian/father in their identity cards to claim a share of inheritance left by their biological parents,” the activist added.
Apart from the women and the transgender community, a lot of men also participated in the public gathering to express support and solidarity to the cause of women’s liberation. “We have come here to raise awareness against the unfortunate culture of honor killing in the country,” a young male activist said. He said many of the men participating in the gathering came to express support to women getting financial independence and making their own decisions and choices.
Speakers of the meeting said that they opposed all kinds of atrocities, adding that their efforts were geared towards equal rights for all. They vowed to continue the struggle for the establishment of a peaceful society where workers’ rights were protected and women were not subjected to violence.
“There can be no worse barbarity than killing women and burying them in unmarked graves,” Ismat Shahjahan, Deputy General Secretary of Awami Workers Party, told Voicepk.net. “Political parties and the States has the responsibility to cleanse society of such fanaticism,” she said.
Shahjahan said the women’s gathering also called for urban and rural land reforms to protect the vulnerable and poor segment of society.
The other demands voiced at the gathering included access to health, education, and clean potable as well as employment for all. The participants also called on the government to implement laws relating to women’s empowerment and the rights of transgender persons. The participants seemed displeased on the lack of attention from the media and the government over important issues facing women, transgender persons, minorities, and other marginalized sections of society.