The Annual March

The Lahore High Court’s dismissal of the petition seeking to halt the Aurat March highlights the importance of upholding wom­en’s rights and freedoms in society. The annual marches on Inter­national Women’s Day across the major cities of Pakistan started back in 2018 and since then, women of the country have united around a yearly theme to raise voice for their rights. The inclusivity and representation of these demonstrations have remained in the line of fire and received criti­cism mainly from factions who see Aurat March as driven by some foreign agenda. In their defence, the organisers of the March have come up with creative ways to explain the rationale behind the various slogans and have also explained repeatedly that the marches are self-funded.

The plea made in the LHC was not a unique event though. Even last year, similar pleas were made and Aurat March in Lahore could not get a No Objection on the desired place and assembly. While some may ar­gue against the march, citing religious or cultural reasons, it is crucial to recognise that women’s voices and their right to peacefully advo­cate for their rights should be respected. Every group has a constitu­tional right to not only protest but also gather to collectively raise their voice for their aspirations. Taking trouble with what is only a Women’s Day march must be re-considered and healthy debate across the divide should be encouraged by all.

A recognition of genuine social issues, that affect women and deprive them of their agency, is needed. It is illogical to brush off the centuries that have dictated societies to be patriarchal. Saying that women have all the freedoms and rights that religion Islam provides is certainly an overstatement. In a thousand instances, we find our religion to be sub­servient to cultural practices, so much so that often it is difficult to dif­ferentiate one from the other.

The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day, Siyasat, Muzaha­mat aur Azadi (Politics, resistance, and independence), highlights the need for inclusive political participation and the empowerment of mar­ginalised communities. The fact that Palestinian resistance also features in this year’s theme places Pakistani women in a superior moral place than many other white feminists who have completely disregarded the plight of Palestinian women as a legitimate feminist issue. It, therefore, becomes essential that all groups and all schools of thought avoid needless bicker­ing and do not block the way of each other. Pakistani society can benefit a lot from progressive norms, legislation, and reforms, concerning women. Let women be the torch-bearers of the justice that their gender deserves.

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