Aurat March and the case of women rights in Pakistan

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    March witnessed a fresh feminist wave sweep across the major cities of Pakistan. The Aurat March campaign aimed to offer a voice to the Pakistani women. It spoke against patriarchal structures and toxic masculinity- that continually supports embedded structural violence which marginalizes women- globally. The Aurat March was the first of its kind in Pakistan- this event in itself highlighted the awakening consciousness of not only the female segment of the society but to some degree- the support it gained from a certain male population is also a hopeful indicator. However, prominent criticism which the Aurat March faced was that it highlighted ‘elitist issues’- which do not speak for the masses of women in Pakistan. This criticism highlights a deeper rooted issue of class disparity, which tends to subtract a broad based view and solution to various problems- as was the case in Aurat March. Nonetheless, the movement was a new trend setter- and for this to shape up as a more effectively rooted structure- the platform needs to juxtapose gender, class, religious and ethnic conflicts- so that the Pakistani feminist perspective exhumes a truly indigenous conceptualization that takes in to account the struggles of women from various social classes, religious and ethnic segments. Over the years, Pakistan has made great strides in improving the overall integration of women in shaping politics- several Pakistani women have also made their mark globally. The recent awarding and accreditation of Tamgha-i-Imitiaz to the Pakistani celebrity Mehwish Hayat- is a recent example of the new acceptance women are receiving- this accreditation further highlights the re-emerging acceptance to the field of arts in Pakistan. Nonetheless, the protection and rights of women are yet to evolve not just in Pakistan but regionally and globally. The recent issue of a domestic abuse case which made headlines- highlights the lingering evils in society.

    In South Asian countries patriarchal attitudes which devalue the role of women, result in the wide spread occurrence of violence against women. The family structure, in which the man is the undisputed ruler of the household, and activities within the family are seen as private, allows violence to occur at home. As well as traditional forms of violence such as wife-battering and sexual assault, women in these countries are also exposed to dowry crimes such as bride burning, kidnapping for the purposes of prostitution, and “honour killings”. Laws permit discrimination against women and discourage reporting of violent acts. Efforts to remedy this situation must include changes in local laws as well as assistance from the United Nations and the international community.

    There is a need for platforms such as Aurat March to extend its scope to take in to account the struggles of the diversity of Pakistani women- and evolve a national feminist political discourse- this should then extend its scope to connect women across the region- may it be in Kashmir or India -who suffer at the hands of violence.