On the 8th of March 2019, something happened. Something so seriously earth shattering that it is still being heavily debated online. People are still divided on the issue.
So, what happened? All over the country, Pakistani lawyers, doctors, teachers, students, housewives, entrepreneurs, business owners, laborers, field workers, women, children, members of the LGBTQ+ and even men took to the streets to say that there was no longer any space for violence, discrimination, exploitation and intolerance.
This revolutionary movement was the Aurat March’19 and it was even bigger, more diverse and stronger than the one held last year. Why? Because Pakistanis understood the importance of uniting together under such a movement to make their voices heard, to put out their issues and finally bring that change from within our homes and communities.
Unfortunately, the aftermath hasn’t been all positive and unifying as the march itself. There has been a lot of backlash and criticism of the movement from people of all genders with some spewing out all sorts of vitriol not only towards the march but also towards the people who took part in it. It is therefore no surprise that most of the hate has been directed towards women. Because when women decide to *gasp* go OUT onto the STREETS and demand equality, you know they’re characterless women with no morals and have no substance in their arguments. Right?
So, the next most logical question that should arise is why is there so much anger towards women marching? Throughout history, people marching together has become a symbol of rebellion and dissent against political, economic and social injustice. In 1975, the women of Iceland decided enough was enough and an estimated 90% of their female population went on an epic strike that forced the men to realize that housework and child rearing were not just women’s jobs. This not only led to Iceland becoming the first European nation to elect a female president but it’s effects can be seen today as Iceland is known as the most gender equal nation in the world. Go back a few more decades and you see the monumental role marches played in the American Civil Rights Movement.
Well, a mere glance at any Facebook or Twitter post reveals that the critics of the Aurat March had a problem with the messages on the placards of some of the women marching that day. These women have since then been degraded, humiliated and have had horrendous slurs flung at them by our lovely social justice keyboard warriors who think that somehow what these women dared to share with the world somehow belittles our culture and our identities as Pakistanis.
Well, i’m here today to debunk precisely that sort of reductionist viewpoint about the matter. We’re about to delve into some of the messages that these so called “pointless” and “vulgar” women showcased.
Khana Khud Garam Karlo
This is a literal classic and has become a sort of symbol of resilience for the Aurat March against haters and naysayers but this is the one message that is always picked up as seemingly “trivial” and “non-consequential” by critics who are adamant that women are only using the March to express their frustrations.
But dig a little deeper and you find out that just like all other issues raised at the march, this too had a whole history and meaning behind it. On November 30th, 2017, a man in Sarghoda murdered his wife because she served him cold food. Honestly, you can’t make this shit up. For how much longer will we limit women’s roles in society to babysitting their husbands, brothers or fathers to the extent that in the event that they do not, this is the outcome?
2. Lo Beth Gayi Sahi Say
So, talking about this one actually comes from a very personal experience of me and the girls and women around me literally being asked to take us as little space in society as possible. “Sit like a lady”, “close your legs” and “sit properly” might not sound like a big deal to those who have never experienced their elders policing their bodies but for most little girls that is the beginning of a life long acceptance of the fact that to be a woman is to literally take up less space. To make yourself small and as non-threatening to men as possible.
However, looking at some very real life experiences, women who sit behind men on bikes are socially not even allowed to sit comfortably and safely because that might be very unladylike or worse upset the natural order or something. There is also the insane idea that if women sit on bikes with their legs open they might LOSE THEIR VIRGINITIES. This fascination with women’s purity needs to stop especially since it comes with the very real danger of countless women falling off bikes in accidents since ther eis literally no support for their backs sitting sideways.
3. Khana May Garam Karloongi, Bistar Khud Garam Karlo
This message and placard in question was perhaps the one that was most heavily criticized by Pakistani men (no surprises there) who just could not handle the gall of a woman stating that she could withhold sex from them?!? The absolute horror. Aside from the fact that this message holds significance in a country where marital rape is rampant and not considered a crime, what most failed to comprehend was that the person holding the placard was none other than Kami Sid who is Pakistan’s first transgender model and prominent LGBTQ rights activist.
So, as we discussed before, each message at the march represented VERY REAL issues with this one talking about the largely unaddressed sexual violence that transgender and LGBTQ individuals face in our country everyday. According to a report by Samaa TV, approximately 500 Trans people may have been killed since 2015 with many cases never reported.
Again, just to make sure the message has been received. Every. Issue. Raised. Was. Important. And . Holds, Some . Meaning. For Pakistani. Women.