Sixth Aurat March in Pakistan
Team Pakistan Intern,
Global Human Rights Defence
Since 2018, the Aurat March is an occurrence that takes place every 8th of March in the biggest cities in Pakistan. On the occasion of the International Women’s Day thousands of women go to the streets to bring attention to women’s rights and issues that they are experiencing. The demands that are being raised at the march include among others the end to patriarchal violence, increased representation of women in decision-making on climate-related matters, and safe access to women for economic opportunities (Hussain, 2023).
The march, however, draws some backlash from the Pakistani society because of its provocative slogans, banners and posters that challenge the patriarchy and highlight some issues that women in the country are facing (Hussain, 2023). Critics argue that such protests support elitist and Western cultural values in a Muslim and conservative country as well as disrespect religious and cultural sensitivities (AFP, 2023). Pakistan is a patriarchal and conservative country, so the authorities try to stop the protests each year.
This year it has been held in all major cities in Pakistan: in the capital Islamabad, Hyderabad, Lahore and Multan, and on March 12th, it will take place also in Karachi. In the city of Lahore, at first the authorities banned the march due to security issues and controversial banners, but after organisers protested at the court they were given permission (Hussain, 2023; Soni, 2023).
The Aurat March became an opportunity for women in Pakistan to speak about their experiences and feelings, but there are not many improvements. Protesters at the march encountered some difficulties as they were exposed to violence by the police. For instance, in Islamabad members of the transgender community have been injured when trying to cross a police blockade and were baton charged by the police (Hussain, 2023). Women at the protest said that the police was trying to stop the rally, which was condemned also by Sherry Rehman, the Federal Minister for Climate Change, who participated in the march (Zehra, 2023).
Sources and further readings:
AFP. (2023, March 8).Women rally in Pakistan after legal challenges. The Hindu. Retrieved March 9, 2023, from https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/women-rally-in-pakistan-after-legal-challenges/article66595951.ece
Hussain, A. (2023, March 8). Aurat March: Pakistani women rally seeking safe public space. Al Jazeera. Retrieved March 9, 2023, from https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/3/8/aurat-march-pakistani-women-rally-across-country
Hyat, K. (2023, March 9). Why are men scared of women?. Geo News. Retrieved March 9, 2023, from https://www.geo.tv/latest/475183-why-are-men-scared-of-women
Soni, M. (2023, March 5). Why Pakistan's Lahore has banned Aurat march but not Haya march: ‘Banners are…’. Hindustan Times. Retrieved March 9, 2023, from https://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/international-women-s-day-pakistan-women-s-day-march-why-pakistan-s-lahore-has-banned-women-s-day-march-banners-are-101677999944958.html
Zehra, Z. (2023, March 8). Aurat March: Violent clash erupts between police and marchers in Islamabad. The News. Retrieved March 9, 2023, from https://www.thenews.com.pk/latest/1047838-aurat-march-violent-clash-erupts-between-police-and-marchers-in-islamabad