By Irfan Mahar*
The Aurat Azadi March or Women’s Freedom March is observed in Pakistan on March 8 every year since 2018. The Aurat Azadi March and Aurat March were organized by a group of socialist feminist and liberal feminist. There were many groups and parties which participated and supported the Aurat Azadi March such as Women Democratic Front (socialist-feminist organization), Women’s Action Forum (women’s rights organization), Young Teachers Association, Awami Workers Party, Awami Jamhoori Party, Home-Based Women Workers Union, and Elimination of Violence against Women and Girls alliance.
Many women, feminist organizations and groups in Pakistan believe that women are treated as second class citizens and are denied their basic rights such as the right to education and health. Including this, they face various kinds of inequalities such as domestic violence, sexual harassment, forced marriages, psychological pressure, lack of access to public spaces and public transport in a dignified manner and violent threats. In this regard, on the day of Aurat Azadi March, women in many cities throughout the country gather to record their protest against the oppressive forms of social, economic and political structures (imperialism, patriarchy, capitalism and colonialism).
Aurat Azadi March keeps much importance because of the factor that it is also observed on March 8 every year which is also International Women’s Day. The day on which many women all over the world from every section of society come out for their fundamental rights as well as due respect and share they deserve. Clara Zetkin, a women’s rights activist from Germany, in a conference, proposed that International Women’s Day should be observed. Meanwhile, since 1921, March 8 is celebrated as the day to honour the hard work of women’s rights activists as well as women who face multiple kinds of problems. The women’s fight for their rudimentary rights is not a new phenomenon rather it is centuries old when European women stood up for their rights. They fought for equality, justice and self-determination in a male-dominated society and in that process they faced multiple kinds of difficulties and gave many sacrifices. After a long hundred years of struggle, they achieved most of their demands and rights in western society.
Pakistani society, since 2018, has been divided into sections and groups with the start of the Aurat Azadi March in the country. The people of Pakistan have separated themselves into multiple groups such as Pro-Aurat Azadi March and Anti-Aurat Azadi March. Meanwhile, between them, many people keep the view that they do not have any problem with suppressed women who are demanding their fundamental rights but the problem lies in the method, strategy and the way they demand their rights. Similarly, many people support some of the demands of women but also keep reservations over other demands. So, these various groups are very determinant about their point of views and learned ideology even they are not such in a position to compromise on their perspective. This strictness of learned ideology becomes the reason for generating problems among these groups which sometimes led them towards violence and destruction. This whole scenario has created many complexities as well as a psychological disturbance within Pakistani society.
Moreover, according to Aasim Sajjad Akhtar, Assistant Professor at Quaid-i-Azam University Islamabad, Pakistan, “the ongoing struggle for women and oppressed genders amounts to the significant progressive movement in Pakistan history”. Similarly, the presence of multiple perspectives as well as an understanding of people regarding a particular matter makes our society very complex. In Such a situation where complexities and dilemmas have wrapped the whole society in their trap, most of the people are influenced by these complex circumstance resultantly it affects their understanding and rational thinking about a particular matter that creates many difficulties in deciding and taking a particular option. Furthermore, many people are only followers who do not have an understanding of a particular ideology, perspective or group, they only follow and keep a strong belief in a person who leads them. Such kind of people are considered more dangerous and harmful for society because they take things for granted and remain decisive and judgmental in their perspective resultantly clash between two or more perspectives becomes inevitable.
A person belonging to whatever ideology, group, sect, perspective etc. should have a sense of responsibility that he/she does not openly do such actions and things which heart the ideology, belief, perspective or point of view of any other. Similarly, it is the responsibility of all participants and supporters of the Aurat Azadi March that they keep much care about the slogans, charts and signs they portray. They should not do such things which heart the feelings, ideology and belief of a particular section of society and create problems in society. In such circumstances, it is obligatory on the people of each and every section of society to look over the sensitivities and importance of the issue through rational decision making and reach a suitable solution that will be beneficial for society as a whole.
*The writer teaches at the Department of Defense and Strategic Studies, Quaid-i-Azam University Islamabad, Pakistan.