Aurat March has rattled many a misogynist over the years. Women out on the streets, marching for their rights and raising their voice is somehow considered ‘vulgar’ and ‘obscene’. This year, though, what the anti-women brigade did was unforgivable. By their false and malicious propaganda, they have put the lives of thousands of women at stake.
Last week, a doctored video of Aurat March was widely shared on social media. Some men from mainstream media with a large following on social media platforms like Twitter shared the video without verifying it. Their tweets amplified the propaganda against Aurat March organisers and participants so much so that the banned terrorist outfit Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) issued a threat to the women and told them to “fix their ways”. It is indeed criminal how a doctored video and false propaganda was carried out about the Aurat March even on the media where the flag of the Women Democratic Front was falsely misrepresented as the French flag, a poster about child sexual abuse and a video with slogans were misrepresented as being blasphemous. Right-wing groups took out rallies and threatened the Aurat March organisers as well as participants.
Organisers of the Aurat March released a statement that said that the Aurat March faces severe backlash every year. “Our videos and posters are targeted and manipulated, spreading misinformation and maligning the March. This year, one of our videos was doctored and heinous allegations are being placed on us.” They demanded an immediate apology and retraction from all those who shared the doctored video as well as a retraction by all journalists and media houses that shared this disinformation.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) said that this campaign was not just repugnant but an incitement to violence. “We demand that action be taken against all such persons.”
It is a no-brainer why a majority of our society would propagate such false accusations against women. How dare women ask for their rights, how dare they fight for equality, how dare they raise their voice for issues related to women’s health, how dare they talk about sexual harassment and rape, how dare they talk about child abuse and child marriage, how dare they ask for the rights of the marginalised… how dare they? No wonder why Pakistan ranks so low on the gender gap index as well as other indicators related to gender. We have weaponised an entire society against women. There was so much outrage about a doctored video, the misrepresentation of a flag and a poster but have we ever seen such outrage over domestic violence, child marriage, rape, sexual harassment, lack of health facilities for women, child molestation, low wages for women workers, etc? No, we have not. Because our patriarchal society will only reserve this misplaced anger and outrage at women.
It is time that we all raise our voice against this dangerous and vicious campaign against Aurat March. Some from media have tendered an apology for sharing the doctored video and deleted their tweets but is a mere apology enough for putting the lives of thousands of women at risk with allegations of a topic as sensitive as blasphemy? These people must be held accountable. The government should not only provide protection to these women but must also take action against all those who took forward the false propaganda against Aurat March.