Some senators condemn Khalil-ur-Rehman's misogynistic remarks, others demand probe of Aurat March

Updated 05 Mar 2020

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For the past two years, the Aurat March has been organised to coincide with the International Women's Day on March 8. — Photo by Ema Anis/Amnesty International
For the past two years, the Aurat March has been organised to coincide with the International Women's Day on March 8. — Photo by Ema Anis/Amnesty International

A number of senators from across the aisle on Wednesday spouted vitriol against the 'Aurat March' scheduled to be held on March 8, even as female lawmakers called out writer-director Khalil-ur-Rehman Qamar for his misogynistic remarks.

While speaking during a talk show on Neo News discussing the Aurat March, Rehman on Tuesday used abusive and misogynistic language against activist Marvi Sirmed, who was also a guest on the show.

He used expletives against Sirmed and termed the Aurat March slogan of "mera jism, meri marzi" (my body, my choice) as "obscene" and "vile".

Read: Khalil-ur-Rehman Qamar, please sit

Speaking in the upper house today, PPP Senator Krishna Kumari Kohli condemned Rehman, saying he had disrespected all women through his remarks.

She said Rehman should not be invited to any talk show in the future. "It is because of people like Khalil-ur-Rehman that women are out protesting on the streets," Kumari added.

Senator Sassui Palijo, another PPP lawmaker, expressed similar thoughts, saying it was time that the character assassination of women in the country ended.

She said Rehman had not just uttered expletives against Sirmed but that he "abused all mothers, sisters and daughters".

The senator said complete security should be provided to the Aurat March. "Everyone will have to understand that women's rights are human rights," she stressed.

However, other — male — senators in the upper house were less unequivocal in their censure of Rehman's remarks.

Jamaat-i-Islami Senator Mushtaq Ahmad Khan said women's rights should not be turned into a "gender clash".

"If Khalil-ur-Rehman Qamar has said something inappropriate, we condemn it; we also condemn mera jism, meri marzi. We also condemn the attempt to introduce Western culture in the name of women's rights," he said, adding that "values" should not be targeted for the sake of "independence".

PML-N Senator Mushahidullah Khan went one step further and demanded an investigation of the march's organisers.

He said the debate of men against women was "useless". "A mother is also a woman. Can one love anyone more than their mother? How much does a sister love her brother?" he asked.

Khan said he wasn't against any march, but went on to ask in the same breath: "Which man will allow his mother or sister to go and do this on the streets?"

"It should be probed who is behind this [march], then other issues should be discussed," he added.

Khan further said the slogan "mera jism, meri marzi" meant "obscenity" (fahashi). "We will not allow this slogan," he told the house.

PTI Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan said people "should not bring new doctrines from the West".

"We know who has authority over our bodies," he added.

What is Aurat March?

The Aurat March, as it has come to be known since its first iteration in 2018, was organised by Hum Aurtain — a feminist collective. It has a manifesto demanding basic rights for women in every walk of life.

For the past two years, it has been organised to coincide with the International Women's Day on March 8, which is also the scheduled date for the rally this year.

Last year, the holding of the rally led to a backlash against the organisers and participants for “violating Islamic principles” and “disrespecting women”.

Most critics had issues with the placards and banners used during the march, which they said transgressed Pakistan's cultural values. There were also reports of the organ­isers of the march receiving threats on social media.