International Women’s Day is celebrated across the globe on March 8. Pakistan, too, marks the day as women from all walks of life take out rallies and marches across the country to ask for equal rights.
Aurat March, a rally organised by women, is being held across several cities of Pakistan today.
Despite threats from the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), Lal Masjid affiliates and other right-wing elements, women have not backed down and will continue marching, bearing the flag of equality.
As for why we march; we march for those 1,000 women killed in the name of “honour” every year. We march because domestic violence has been normalised in our society. We march because more than a thousand Christian and Hindu girls are forcefully converted and then married off to Muslim men against their will. We march because only 5-10 per cent of women have land in their own name. We march because 70,000 young girls die during childbirth as a result of underage marriages. We march because acid attack victims are shunned by society. We march because rape survivors are shamed into silence. We march so that victims of sexual harassment do not fear speaking out. We march because freedom should win over fear. We march because misogynists like Khalilur Rehman Qamar are glorified by our media while strong women like Marvi Sirmed are asked to tone down their behaviour.
Women were told to change or tone down the slogans of Aurat March. They are being threatened that if this is how they ask for their rights, they will not be given anything. Well, enough! We will ourselves decide how to speak, how to walk, how to sit, what to wear, where to go, what to do. When a woman says no, it means NO!
When we say ‘Mera Jism, Meri Marzi’, we speak for those nameless rape survivors, for those who are victims of domestic violence, for those who are victims of sexual violence, for those whose reproductive health rights have been snatched away, for those women who continue to suffer silently because society does not give them a chance or a way out.
We will march and continue to fight patriarchy every step of the way. Without equality, there is no going forward. It is not an easy task but our women have never let us down. From Fatima Jinnah to Benazir Bhutto, from Asma Jahangir to Malala Yousafzai, our women have continued to make us proud. We are proud of each and every one of our women. More power to you. Happy Women’s Day!