March 28, 2023

Islamabad, Pakistan – Tens of hundreds of Pakistani ladies have rallied in main cities throughout the nation as a part of the sixth Aurat March (Ladies’s March) to mark Worldwide Ladies’s Day.

This 12 months’s march was held concurrently within the capital Islamabad, Lahore and Multan within the northern Punjab province, and Hyderabad within the southern Sindh province.

The Aurat March, held since 2018, has attracted backlash from a piece of the inhabitants resulting from its provocative slogans, banners and placards difficult patriarchy and highlighting points going through ladies, equivalent to divorces and sexual harassment.

Karachi, the nation’s greatest metropolis, will maintain the march on March 12.

Organizers needed to method the Lahore Excessive Court docket after town authorities refused permission for the march over safety points. The court docket gave the inexperienced mild for the march to proceed within the jap metropolis.

Afghan women refugees carry signs, as they participate in Women's March in Islamabad.
Afghan ladies refugees carry indicators, as they take part within the ‘Aurat March’ or “Ladies’s March”, to mark Worldwide Ladies’s Day, in Islamabad. [Akhtar Soomro/Reuters]

As ladies and members of the transgender group marched in Islamabad, attempting to cross a police blockade, they have been baton charged by the police. A number of members of the transgender group have been injured.

Imaan Zainab Mazari-Hazir, one of many organizers in Islamabad, known as the state “anti-women”, including that what the members confronted at present was nothing new.

“We’ve got been saying this for many years now. Be it the time of earlier dictators or at present. Nothing has modified,” she informed Al Jazeera.

“We converse of socialist feminism. We converse of democracy. We converse of anti-enforced disappearances. We converse of equality and entry to public areas for girls. These are the the reason why the state will all the time have an issue with us.”

‘Insecure and unsafe’

Though it was a weekday, many individuals turned up on the floor exterior Islamabad’s Nationwide Press Membership to take part within the march, carrying placards and banners.

Maryam Fatima, a lawyer primarily based in Islamabad was carrying one such banner with a caption in Urdu that learn, “My shirt is vibrant, however do not consider it as my consent.”

Talking to Al Jazeera, Fatima, who’s initially from Karachi, mentioned she has attended all earlier marches and, for her, the occasion is a spot the place she will categorical her opinion about her private experiences.

“For me, the Aurat March is the at some point of the 12 months the place I can speak about what I really feel,” she mentioned.

Nevertheless, Fatima mentioned that she felt that issues weren’t essentially enhancing or getting higher for girls.

Women's Day events highlight gaps in gender equality
An Afghan refugee girl takes half in a rally to mark Worldwide Ladies’s Day in Islamabad. [Anjum Naveed/AP Photo]

“I moved to Islamabad two years in the past and regardless of it being the capital, I really feel extra insecure and unsafe right here. We can not simply go to a public park resulting from fears of harassment and assault,” she mentioned, including that even at court docket, the place she practices legislation, males handled ladies in condescending method.

One other participant, Khushbakht Sohail, mentioned in her expertise, whereas the Aurat Marches have given folks a platform to come back out and lift their voice, the state’s response has solely change into harsher.

“There’s a fixed backlash yearly you see earlier than the march,” she informed Al Jazeera, referring to photoshopped banners and slogans used to harass Aurat March organizers and members on social media in a coordinated method.

“We noticed, even at present, how the police inflicted violence upon us, but we’re going to stand our floor.”

The members have been scheduled to make a brief journey of roughly three kilometers (1.9 miles), from Nationwide Press Membership to D-Chowk, a city sq. in entrance of Presidency after the speeches ended, however the police initially refused to take away the containers and boundaries. that blocked the members from starting their march.

Nevertheless, after greater than an hour of sloganeering, the authorities ultimately eliminated the barricades.

With in style songs equivalent to singer Hasan Raheem’s, Peechay Hatt, (Transfer Again) blaring from the audio system, and highly effective chants from the gang, saying “Allow us to go to D-Chowk, or else depart your seat of energy,” and “We’re out in opposition to oppression, come stroll with us,” an enormous roar went out when the police eliminated the barricades.

Aurat March in Islamabad.
The Aurat March organizers in varied cities have offered their constitution of calls for, together with elevated illustration of ladies whereas making choices on climate-related issues. [Syed Abid Hussain/Al Jazeera]

Sohail, who labored within the improvement sector, mentioned that from the persistence proven by the gang and sticking to their demand to march, it was evident that folks’s anger was growing, and it could not cease.

“This nation belongs to us as effectively. We are going to take it again if we aren’t given our rights,” she mentioned.

The Aurat March organizers in varied cities offered their constitution of calls for, together with an finish to patriarchal violence, elevated illustration of ladies whereas making choices on climate-related issues, offering protected entry to ladies for financial alternatives, and others.

Gender-based violence has remained a substantial drawback in Pakistan. International rights group Human Rights Watch, in its 2022 report, mentioned that violence in opposition to ladies and ladies, together with rape, homicide, acid assaults, home violence, and compelled marriage, is “endemic” all through the nation.

“Human rights defenders estimate that roughly 1,000 ladies are killed yearly,” the report added.

Momal Malik, who was attending the march along with her associates, mentioned that the Aurat March and Worldwide Ladies’s Day, for her, have been a reminder that change was potential.

“Highly effective ladies have all the time been resisted in every single place, not simply Pakistan,” Malik mentioned.

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