As the entire nation gears up for the second edition of the most revolutionary civilian human rights movement the nation will witness, it is time we realize exactly what the Aurat March demands from the state and all of its counterparts. After the success of the first march that was held on the 8th of March 2018, women are rallying yet again, to show their strength in numbers and ensure their demands are heard. Behenchaara (sisterhood) and Yakjehti (Unity) shall prevail once more.
Gone are the days women considered themselves subservient to their male counterparts. It is time to march as one and take back what should never have been taken from us in the first place. As the Aurat March approaches, let’s take a look at the manifesto they have presented.
1. A demand to end violence against women.
In Pakistan, violence against women includes but is not limited to domestic violence, non-consensual marriages or forced marriages, acid attacks, “honor” killings, rape and other forms of physical and sexual assault, with an estimated 1,000 cases of “honor” killings each year, according to the World Report.
2. Labor rights.
Although women tend to form a large chunk of the labor community, especially in the agricultural field, they are more often than not denied a right to voice their opinions, concerns, and issues with the work, wages, and employers. We demand a change to this, as well as a dedication towards removing the wage gap.
3. Reproductive rights.
It is the right of the people to seek and raise concerns about reproductive health, but unfortunately, as sex remains a taboo in Pakistan, people have hesitated to speak up about it, with a general lack in lobbying; this has allowed negligence to prevail in policymaking and availability of resources. Moreover, bodily autonomy remains an issue due to the lack of sex education and informed consent.
4. Environmental Justice.
We believe it is the right of all people to be actively involved in any and all policies that affect the environment because ultimately, it affects our nation as a whole. Regardless of diverse identity, as long as we live in the country, it is up to us to make a meaningful contribution to environmental laws and policies.
5. Anti-sexual assault laws.
As more and more cases of sexual assault are being reported, we demand that laws must be made to safeguard the victims of sexual assault through various stages; psychological protection, the ability to safely challenge their abusers, to call them out and identify them, to mete out adequate punishment for all those who violate the sanctity of other people’s bodies. This includes the sexual assault of all ages, genders, children etc.
6. Wage equality.
According to a report presented by the United Nation’s International Labor Organization, Pakistan has a global wage inequality score of 48.4%.
Women are deprived of their rightful wages in the agricultural, service, and industrial sector more than any other sector. Although a minimum wage gap policy was introduced, there is no way of protecting women from not just workplace exploitation, but unpaid labor in their households.
7. Fair political representation and opportunities.
With only one female prime minister in the country’s history, there’s no wonder why we’re questioning the political representation of women. It is the alienable right of people to be equal in opportunities; however, men have been given preference in both political and professional spheres, wherein they are deemed to be more rational and competent than women, with women not being considered for high paying jobs or positions of political importance. We seek to change this perception and bring women – which includes all women, including our Trans and queer sisters too – to the front lines.
8. Education equality.
As a nation that suffers from blatant inequality not just between genders, but also between the public and private sector, we need to work more on educational opportunities for all genders, especially women. Although some progress has been made to increase opportunities for the Trans community to gain education, not much has been done to increase expenditure and investment in the public education sector, especially in rural and remote areas where women are systematically deprived of gaining an education.
9. Equality for the transgender community.
One of the most oppressed communities, the Trans people of Pakistan have had to face miserable social, professional, and educational conditions wherein they have been subjected to countless horrors and humiliations. As an inclusive movement, we seek to bring change to the lives and livelihood of the Trans community and ensure they are as equal as any other citizen.
10. Child marriage.
Children, especially the girl child, remain the most exploited in terms of forced marriage, labor, and child sexual abuse. After pressure, some laws have been amended to increase the minimum age for marriage, but implementation and awareness of these laws remain a problem we seek to overcome.
We believe that all children should have a right to grow up safely, without unrealistic expectations, the burden of marriage, and the loss of consent.