March 8th, 2022
By Rehan Piracha
Thousands participate in separately-themed Aurat Marches in Lahore, Karachi, Hyderabad, Multan and Islamabad. The themes covered calls for access to speedy justice, end to gender discrimination, enforcement of minimum wage and social protection to women and transgender persons.
The Aurat March in Lahore began from Lahore Press Club to Faletti’s Hotel amid a heavy security presence. Hundreds of women, activists, students, girls, men and transgender persons participated in the annual gathering despite calls to ban the event.
Participants carried banners and placards inscribed with slogans of AsaI Insaaf, the theme of this year’s gathering in Lahore. According to participants, the theme of Asal Insaaf highlighted the need for expediting justice to women victims of violence and abuse.
“I believe that Aurat March 2022’s theme #AsalInsaaf is extremely relevant to Pakistan where women suffer from a lack of access to justice,” Nida Aly, executive director of the Asma Jahangir Legal Aid Cell, told Voicepk.net. “We have seen that women who get justice from courts gives confidence to other women victims to seek of access legal relief,” she explained.
“The theme means swift and timely justice for victims of abuse,” activist Muqaddas Jarral told Voicepk while attending the gathering. “For instance gangrape victim Mukhtar Mai is still facing threats and forced into hiding despite all she has gone through all these years,” she added.
“The Aurat March represents a new wave of feminism in the country and all women must join this struggle in solidarity,” said Umme Laila, executive director of Homenet. She said for many years members of the Women Action Forum had been celebrating the International Women’s Day. “After the annual Aurat March started, we decided to join hands because we have a common cause,” she added.
Participants put up displays of YouTubers who used derogatory remarks during their coverage of last year’s march. The artwork was part of theme of ‘Journalism Must Be Ethical’.
According to the march organisers, YouTube’s click bait-based system pushes people to create attention grabbing content. The coverage of Aurat March seen on YouTube was far from reality. “These YouTube “journalists” sensationalised, misrepresented and harassed participants Aurat March last year,” the organisers of Aurat March said.
The Aurat March also displayed a banner that had names of all transgender persons killed last year. The participants also sang tappay (Punjabi folk songs) with a feminist rendition to bring across harassment and injustice faced by women every day on the streets.
Only 200 meters away from the venue of the Aurat March in Lahore, a truckload of men from a religious organisation gathered for a counter ‘Haya (modesty) March’. The participants of the Haya March raised loud slogans against those taking part in the Aurat March. Police had set up four barricades in order to prevent participants of both the marches from coming across one another.
Hundreds of women turned up for the Aurat March in Jinnah Park opposite the Quaid Masoleum in Karachi. The theme for this year included minimum wage and social protection for workers.
According to a charter of demands released by the organisers of Aurat March in Karachi, the participants called for enforcement of minimum wage in all sectors of economy. The demands included universal pension; social protection; tax exemption for single mothers, elderly women and widows; stipend for transgender and women victims of violence; establishment of child protection centres across Sindh; and state aid for unemployment. The participants danced to anthems asserting ‘our body our choice’ slogans.
The Aurat March in Islamabad was forced to disperse to avert a clash with religious parties holding a counter demonstration there.
According to the Aurat March organisers, hundreds of women attended the annual gathering held outside the National Press Club in Islamabad despite intimidation by the district administration. The participants raised slogans against harassment, honour killing and domestic violence. The organisers claimed that the administration had turned off the venue’s mics and threatened drivers bringing in participants.
There were also reports that members of religious groups infiltrated the Aurat March gathering and harassed women participants.
The Aurat March in Multan was held the theme of ‘Reimagining the Education System’ for women. The participants demanded equal education for women and end to gender inequalities in the right of education to young girls.
“The very fact that the AuratMarch2022 is taking place in here is a testament to the courage and resilience of women who continue to fight for their rights despite all odds,” Hina Jillani, chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, told Voicepk.net while participating in the Multan gathering. Jillani said the women had the courage to confront those suppressing their voices.
“I don’t think there is anything negative about the AuratMarch2022. If someone is looking for controversy then that is exactly what they will find,” a female participant said.
Participants of the Aurat March in Hyderabad took out a rally from Shahbaz Building to Press Club. Hundreds of women from all walks of life participated in the gathering to highlight issues facing them in the country.
The participants carried banners inscribed with slogans against forced conversion and marriages as well as violence on women. “Women from all walks of life have gathered here today to celebrate their freedom and to demand justice for victims of abuse countrywide,” renowned writer and activist Amar Sidhu told Voicepk.net while participating in the event. She said the event was a forum for collective expression of women in rural and urban areas of Sindh.
“You can see lady health workers from Dadu, women from rural areas of Badin as well as female doctors, professionals and students coming to this gathering,” she said. The participants also danced to traditional tunes in celebration of International Women’s Day.