Women in Lahore take part in Aurat March with feminist flourish

Published March 9, 2021
ACTIVISTS of the Aurat March carrying placards hold a rally on Egerton Road to mark the International Women’s Day. — White Star
ACTIVISTS of the Aurat March carrying placards hold a rally on Egerton Road to mark the International Women’s Day. — White Star

LAHORE: Women, along with other gender minorities, took to the streets as a part of the Aurat March as they walked from the press club to the PIA Building on Egerton Road to mark the International Women’s Day 2021 on Monday.

The demonstrators gathered outside the Lahore Press Club at around 2pm and began their procession towards the PIA Building where they ended the walk and held a sit-in where they performed the anti-rape anthem. The anthem, A Rapist in Your Path, was originally written in Spanish by the Chilean theatre group, and was later translated into other languages, including Urdu, across the world.

The participants in the march chanted slogans while holding banners. The women raised slogans against violence, gender discrimination, economic rights and misogyny. There were a lot of men in the mach this year and more diversity compared to the last year. However, there were fewer gender minorities and the overall crowd was smaller compared to the last year. Less representation from the grassroots, especially women, was conspicuous.

One of the most powerful sights to be seen was an installation displayed in front of the PIA Building, with ‘Dirty Laundry’ written on it. Shirts were displayed with blood stains on them where the names of relations were written down, such as Baba (father), Chacha (uncle), a friend etc. These were meant to expose personal experiences of some of the victims and survivors of domestic violence and sexual abuse. The display represented the tragic state of affairs across the country.

A few glitches were caused but they made a little difference to verve of the marchers at the end of the day.

As the evening approached, the participants sat down in a sit-in. Performances were held and speeches were made.

On the periphery of the march, one Shaheer Sialvi of a nondescript organisation, State Youth Parliament, and former member of the youth wing of a religious group, along with some others held a tiny demonstration, terming the Aurat March ‘fahashi’. They said if the women activists were demanding rights of women, they must also seek the release of Dr Aafia Siddqui.

However, police did not allow them to come inside the boundaries of the Aurat March.

Despite the fact that forms had been given to the media so that the organisers could keep coverage in check, given the sexism last year, some of the coverage continued to be harshly critical of the march, even if it was not sexist. Much of this came from Urdu language digital platforms. Pointed questions, unethical comments and reporting led to friction between some of the organisers and the media. Some reporters were seen asking extremely slanted and misleading questions about the motive of the march. One of the media persons went so far as to tell the marchers to begin their protest from their ‘own homes’ before taking to the streets. The friction ended up in pushing almost every media person outside the peripheries, including women reporters. Many of them complained about lack of freedom for journalists.

The standard operating procedures regarding the Covid-19 were partially followed in the march. The organisers distributed masks and ensured that everyone had sanitizers; however, social distancing was next to impossible.

This year, the Aurat March focused on various issues, including gender-based violence, forced conversions, lack of access to health and education and non-implementation of basic rights. A charter of demands in this regard was released on Sunday.

DIALOGUE: A dialogue, in connection with the International Women’s Day 2021, was held in collaboration with the Pakistan Girl Guides Association (Punjab).

The event, organised by the Search for Justice, a child rights platform, was inaugurated by Parveen Sarwar and MPA Uzma Kardar, the chairperson of Punjab Assembly’s Standing Committee on Gender Mainstreaming.

Ms Sarwar stressed the economic empowerment of women and young girls through different programmes, which would lead to an eventual eradication of poverty and breaking the cycle of violence.

Ms Kardar said female parliamentarians were determined to play their roles in the enactment of women friendly legislations.

Women and Girls from media, medical and community services shared their life journey as professional as well as their significant contribution to the communities during the Covid-19.

Provincial Minister for Human Rights Ijaz Alam Augustine, Dua Mirza, Zunaira Ilyas, Salma Sajjad, Dr Ayesha, Rashida Qureshi and Zunaira Nazar were among the speakers.

Published in Dawn, March 9th, 2021

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