Feminism and Aurat March: Unveiling Pakistan’s Societal Dynamics
Exploring Feminist Ideologies, Socialism Movements, and the Pursuit of Equality
Feminism is a scale of ideologies1, political2 calls, and socialism3 movements which have a specific particular goal or an objective: to set up, define, reach, and establish the social, economic, and personal equality of the sexes. Political movements are said to be in the opposite direction to government, which is associated with a mutual idea. The term ideology refers to the idea or the matter on which a matter or a fact is planned. The ideology of feminism has its basic concern with the position of women in society.
Socialism is defined as “an economic and political idea which is to support the idea of exchange of one thought should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.” As stated in Women’s Liberation Movement, “The women’s liberation movement (WLM) was a political alignment of women and feminist intellectualism that emerged in the late 1960s and continued into the 1980s primarily in the industrialized nations on the Western world, which affected great change (political, intellectual, cultural) throughout the world.” Feminism is present worldwide and is pictured by various institutions committed to activity on behalf of women’s rules and regulations.
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The question is, ‘How can we hope to have equal authority for both men and women? Sovereignty is the domain or the power for which the legislature is asking to make laws. “Authority is the right of rule. Authority creates its own power”; it is the acceptance by the society. Power is the capacity to bring change. The term power is the capacity to bring about intended effects. It is the ability to show what strength or potential does one have. The legislature6 LHW (Ladies Health Worker) is a group working for the rights of women in Pakistan. According to CHW Central, “The Lady Health Worker Program (LHWP) was established in 1994 with the goal of providing primary care services to underserved populations in rural and urban areas.
In 2003, the national strategic plan set two goals:
- improving quality of services and
- expanding coverage of the LHWP through the deployment of 100,000 Lady Health Workers (LHWs) by 2005″.
Feminism and the Struggle for Women’s Rights in Pakistan’s Diverse Society
In this paper, I would like to quote a number of examples; however, my main concern is Pakistan’s society. Before we go any further, one must understand the society of Pakistan. As stated by Mansoor Qaiser in an article, “Pakistan is a Muslim country, where one not only takes its pride strictly according to Islamic rules but is also ready to sacrifice their everything for Islam. Islam gives immense respect to women. Islam acknowledges the rights and privileges of women. Similarly, Islam does not impose any rules and regulations that may control the social growth and development of women. A woman is a prime element of society.
The women of Pakistan have been constantly complaining of having segregated rights as compared to men in society. Women feel ill-treated or bullied by the male-oriented setup in Pakistan. Women argue that if they are given a chance, they can come up with a more positive approach to the development of all social aspects. However, Pakistani society usually chooses an unkind attitude toward a woman. A number of factors are causing hindrances in the development of the rights of women; specifically, rural women have to tolerate men’s supremacy. If taken significantly, the women in Pakistan are the same in number as compared to men and equal in potential. These women live in the most diversified location of the feudal, tribal, or urban environment of the country, but they can be highly qualified and self-confident individuals or toiling peasants among men.”
Tracing the Evolution of Women’s Rights: From Historical Inequities to Contemporary Struggles
The notable issues of women are not just limited to these: the right to bodily integrity and self-determination, the right to be free from violence, whether it is physical, mental, or sexual, the right to vote, have equal rights in society and home as well, to have fair wages, to study and to have equal deserving rights. As stated in the article Feminism, “At the end of the 19th century in France, they were still compelled to cover their heads in public, and, in parts of Germany, a husband still had the right to sell his wife.
“Even as late as the early 20th century, women could neither vote nor hold elective office in Europe and in most of the United States (where several territories and states granted women’s suffrage long before the federal government did so). Women were prevented from conducting business without a male representative, be it a father, brother, husband, legal agent, or even son. Married women could not exercise control over their own children without the permission of their husbands. Moreover, women had little or no access to education and were barred from most professions. In some parts of the world, such restrictions on women continue today.”
An article, The Fight for Women’s Rights in the Past and Present, writes that “The application of a number of laws and policies over the time paints an actual picture of the benefits that were said to be ‘women’s rights’ at a time. Societies in the early 70’s and 80’s show us that the way of asking, the way of fighting, types of protests, type of slogans have varied from culture to culture.”
From a Day of Celebration to a Movement of Empowerment: The Evolution and Significance of Aurat March in Pakistan
In most of the world, as soon as the month of March begins, all the news channels, social media pages, and many other forums have started to talk about women and their rights. In Pakistan, this whole moment comes under the topic of ‘Aurat March.’ 8 March is said to be International Women’s Day, but is it just to be celebrated on a single day, or is standing for her rights something to be done any day?
Aurat March is a protest or a walk done by the people of Pakistan in their cities to show the picture of how they are fighting for the rights of women. The concept of Aurat March came across when a set of women from Karachi came together in a park on Women’s Day. Since then, it has evolved into a movement including transgender, and a huge number of men are also seen there. A number of similar events in the US also were the inspiration for this walk; however, it was fuelled by the incidents at home. As stated in the article issued by BBC News on 7 March 2020, “The ‘honor killing’ of social media star Qandeel Baloch by her own brother and other incidents have shone a light on violence against women in recent years. ‘The need for younger feminists to have a voice was already there,’ says the organizer, who was part of that original group of women. ‘We are challenging the status quo. We’re challenging the regressive elements in our society.'”
Unveiling Voices and Igniting Controversy: The Power and Impact of Aurat March Slogans in Shaping Women’s Rights Discourse
It is the protests and walks done by the citizens while holding some slogans and tags. These slogans convey the messages that, according to the citizens, are the basic rights of a female, the say against stereotypes, the say of those in need, and much more. Slogans posted by Mangobaaz are such as; “‘rishtey nahi haqoq chaise (Girls just wanna have FUNdamental rights, okay?), ‘mere kapray meri margin (A woman’s choice of clothing is her concern only), ‘mere inker mein iqrar dhondo #consent’ (NO means No, not try and change my mind!).’ and many more.
In 2019, the main manifesto of the movement was ‘Snatch your rights,’ the economic justice for women. However, the slogans and tags played a great role in drawing wider attention to the movement. A large amount of criticism and abuse were noticed on social media and in newspapers. A series of intense trolling was done against the March. The most eyed slogan was ‘mera jism meri marzi’ (my body, my choice). This tag was one of the reasons for the controversy of the March and is said to be in the future as well. According to the defenders of March, “it is about a woman’s control over her own body”; however, this phrase was criticized as offensive, having a sexual connotation, and going against the highly prized expectation of modesty in a woman.
Navigating Divergent Perspectives: Government Stance and Societal Discourse on Aurat March Agenda
In the upcoming March, and specifically in the 2020 March, it was noticed that the group leading the ‘aura march’ and the government are not on the same ground when it comes to the agenda of the March. Government is the institution and office through which societies are governed. However, in today’s Pakistan, these programs are being improvised less as compared to the word feminism being used for equal rights. According to Pakistan’s government, women should be given their deserving rights and should also fight for them if needed, yet according to governance9, these rights should be asked in a specific manner. Governance is the process by which decisions, laws, and policies are made. For instance, governance says that one has the right to do an ‘aura march,’ but the slogans should be more literal and faithful.
Prior to Aurat March 2020, speaking at a ceremony with the special assistance of Prime Minister of Information, Dr. Firdous Ashiq Awan agreed to support the March, but it should not compromise on the country’s honor, “We will have to trace who are those handful people who possess this mindset and why they are busy in misleading the entire nation, especially women” however the word ‘mindset’ was never made clear. Opinion of other political parties10 has varied, such as PML-N agreeing with the PTI government and the leader saying, “The organizers must raise and write culturally acceptable slogans with utmost care.” The PPP did not totally agree with the ruling party, “Chairman Bilawal is the only leader who has openly supported the women’s march, and he has raised his voice for the rights of women in the country.” According to the government, it should fully support the March without any strings attached. This whole article was published in Dawn under the article Govt to support Aurat March with strings attached.
Fostering Constructive Dialogue: Balancing Expression and Sensitivity in Addressing Aurat March Concerns
As stated in an article published by Digital Rights Monitor, “However, looking at the hate being spewed online, one would get the impression that the March’s intent was much more sinister. A whole week after the March, abuse, hate, and resentment against the women who marched continue; some have even questioned the religious credentials of feminists participating in the March.”
In my personal opinion, a resistance11 is to be made to control issues regarding Aurat March. Resistance is the denial of acceptance of an argument; it is when a group of people raise their voices to stop someone or some organization from taking a step or implementing something. It is clear that all the issues mentioned above were the leading reasons for the March to begin at first, and there was a need for people to stand against it, but some kind of protocols or regulations were to be set for the ease of both the one in favor or against the March. One should definitely have the right to stand for their rights but in such a way that it does not hurt other people’s feelings, or no one should be offended by one’s opinion. A set time should be given to talk shows to talk on the specific topic; for instance, the month of March should not be used only on the topic of Aurat March. Some kind of standard operating procedures are to be set for these slogans.
- Ali, K. (2015). Sexual ethics and Islam: Feminist reflections on Qur’an, hadith, and jurisprudence. Oneworld Publications.
- Weiss, A. M. (2012). Moving forward with the legal empowerment of women in Pakistan. US Institute of Peace.
- Toor, S. (2011). The state of Islam: Culture and cold war politics in Pakistan. Pluto Press.
- Jalal, A. (1991). The convenience of subservience: Women and the state of Pakistan. Development and Change, 22(4), 649-677.
- Saeed, S. (2017). Feminism in Pakistan: A brief history. The Express Tribune.
- Human Rights Watch. (2022). “Shall I feed my daughter, or educate her?” Barriers to Girls’ Education in Pakistan.
- Dawn. (2020). Govt to support Aurat March with strings attached.