Conflicts & War

Pakistanis march for rights on Women’s Day despite threats

Islamabad, Mar 8 (EFE).- Hundreds of Pakistani women on Tuesday demanded their rights across cities on the International Women’s Day, for the fourth consecutive years since the historic first women’s march in 2018, amid threats and backlash from the most conservative sections of the society over allegedly being anti-Islam.

Islamabad, the capital of literally the “land of pure,” as well as Karachi (south), Lahore (east), Multan (center), witnessed the largest marches, apart from smaller events in other cities.

“The gender divide brings divide in the society, not unity, so let’s eliminate it,” a female participant of the march said while addressing the gathering of women and some feminist men in the capital.

The protesters reiterated the need to ensure freedom, justice and security for the women of the conservative country, chanting “the revolution will come,” in front of the Press Club in Islamabad, the starting point of the Aurat (woman in Urdu) March.

In a Karachi park dedicated to the country’s founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the demonstrators urged the authorities to take measures to ensure equality among men and women.

“Women’s slogan, independence, our slogan, independence,” the participants chanted, urging other women to join the protest.

“Feminist friends, your time has come,” said one of the banners.

Just like every year since the first march, held in Karachi in 2018, the marching women have raised heckles among critics.

Petitions were filed against the organizers in Islamabad and Lahore and they were forced to reach a consensus with the authorities over the protest’s venues.

The minister for religious affairs Noor-ul Haq Qadri wrote a letter to Prime Minister Imran Khan last month asking him not to allow the marches, accusing them of promoting “obscenity” and violating the basic principles of Islam.

He urged Khan to declare Mar. 8 as the international day of the hijab (Islamic veil).

Abdul Majeed Hazarvi, leader of a major religious group Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam-Fazl party, threatened to “use batons” to stop the marches.

However, this year no violent incidents were reported unlike 2020, when the march in Islamabad had clashed with a protest by the Islamists opposing feminism, with the latter resorting to pelting stones and injuring three people.

Slogans used during earlier marches such as “my body my right,” “heat your own food” and “how would I know where your socks are?” have triggered controversy among the patriarchal sections of the Pakistani society.

According to a 2020 study by late activist Rubina Saigol and Nida Usman Chaudhary, the Aurat March heralded Pakistan’s fourth wave of feminism and caused a “tectonic shift” in the feminist landscape of the country, bringing women’s discrimination within the family and society to the spotlight.

According to a human rights report by nonprofit Amnesty International, women in the South Asian country continue to face high levels of violence, including rape, murders and kidnapping. EFE


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