Aurat March today in Lahore: An effort to mainstream marginalised women’s issues

Published March 8, 2021
A performance by activists of All Pakistan Trade Union Federation on The Mall on the eve of International Women’s Day. — White Star
A performance by activists of All Pakistan Trade Union Federation on The Mall on the eve of International Women’s Day. — White Star

LAHORE: Aurat March will be held here on Monday (today) afternoon from the Lahore Press Club to the PIA Building.

The year’s march will be dedicated to healthcare workers and women’s health in the light of the violence that marginalised genders faced during the past year.

The health of women and non-binary gender is massively ignored at both an individual and structural level, says the manifesto. Other issues including enforced disappearances are also expected to be given in-depth focus.

Those in the core committee say that the manifesto of Aurat March was made with collective effort, and came out after months of hard work, research, and absorbing the opinions of different community members, including those women, whose voices are silenced, women with disabilities, transgender groups, lady health workers, etc.

This point of the manifesto is to make marginalised voices mainstream and give them space.

Enforced Disappearances

One of the most important issues that are expected to be given space this year is that of enforced disappearances as well as accompanying human rights violations, especially in Balochistan.

From mid-2010 onwards, hundreds of dead bodies of those who went ‘missing’ began to emerge. Besides Balochistan, Sindh’s families have also been victims of this crime.

Bodies are generally found, dumped in deserted areas, and most times are found to be tortured badly.

Families and those that have gone missing, have been victimised under the guise of the war on terror, and of laws and policies pertaining to terrorism, while some have been picked up over personal vendetta.

However, while it is usually the men who are abducted, tortured and killed, the women of the family are also victims in this crime, leaving them in a limbo and without closure, resulting in psychological trauma, as well as economic issues.

Aurat March will stand in solidarity with affected people, especially as the whole trend of enforced disappearances has resulted in militarisation of communities, seeping hatred, as well as discord.

Entry Forms

Aurat March Lahore has also raised concerns over the biased and sensationalised coverage of the march, and has decided to issue media passes to encourage women and transgender reporters to cover the event.

It has taken this step in the light of many complaints of the participants in the march where they were bullied and harassed by people claiming to be media personnel.

A member of the collective told Dawn that last year several people, mostly from non-legacy digital media organisations, disrupted the safe and private space by asking ‘extremely personal questions’ unrelated to the issues at hand. She said that they not only imposed their questions on the marchers, they also jumped to conclusions and did not allow them to speak either.

“We are also trying to protect the privacy of those who are going to be there,” she said. “There were certain video clips and images that ended up in harassing our supporters not just that day, but all the year round.”

She also reiterated three core principles of Aurat March Lahore including no NGO funding or affiliation, no corporate funding or affiliation, and no political party alliance or affiliation.

Demands

Article 38 of the Constitution says that the State must provide basic necessities of life, (food, clothing, housing, education, and medical relief), for all such citizens, irrespective of any differences of sex, caste, creed, etc. AM Lahore has demanded the state fulfill its responsibility here and add that it is a huge concern that the health budget has gone down.

The demands include a better infrastructure given to survivors of abuse who need access to mental as well as physical care within a rehabilitative framework in order to adequately manage the long-term effects of the violence visited upon them.

A huge issue within the health sector is that of transgenders and PWDs (persons with disabilities) to access health. According to a study, 92% of transgender people report facing discrimination or harassment in healthcare settings in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, while another study in Punjab reveals that 74% of transgender persons prefer not to go to public hospitals.

Other health issues concern are also raised in the document, including, educational programs and training aiming to stop stigmatization and shame associated with gendered bodies, breast cancer, reproductive health, the gender pain gap, more gender sensitized medico-legal practitioners, charging for forensic services (including from rape victims), HIV, access to free medicines, rights of PWDs, implementation of the Transgender Act 2018, access to clean water and toilets, especially to avoid contraction of Covid-19, healthcare for female prisoners, and drug addicts and users, an end to underage marriage, and several other issues associated with the health sector.

CM’S message

Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar said that the respect of women was a part of Pakistan’s social and religious norm.

In his message with regard to International Women Rights Day, the CM said that women are approximately 50% of the population of Pakistan. He said that role of women in practical life for the socioeconomic development of the country could not be neglected.

Equal opportunities have been provided to women in practical life and his party would seek to further empower women. He said that 187 daycare centres have been established throughout the province. Seven new centres have been inaugurated last year, he added. A facility of hostel has been provided for the working women. New hospitals are being established for ensuring quality treatment to mother and child.

He said new mother and child care hospitals would be set up with a a sum of Rs280 million in Attock, Rajanpur, Bahawalnagar, Sialkot and Layyah. He said that work was being carried out on Mother and Child care hospital in Lahore and Mianwali.

Published in Dawn, March 8th, 2021

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