March was very happening in Pakistan this year. While the first few days of the month had everyone hooked to their television screens because of the tensions between India and Pakistan (and of course PSL), the very first weekend had everyone taken by surprise, rather shocked; owing to the Aurat March.
The International Women’s Day was celebrated with unprecedented zeal and passion across Pakistan this year as the ‘Aurat’ marches in all major cities sparked debates, which were not any less heated than the news room discussions on Indo-Pak rivalry. By far little good has come out of the debates for all they have done is not just pitched women and men against each other but women against women as well.
A good few women are bent on believing that every single gesture displayed in the march was but absolutely right, a fraction of men and women believe the issues could have been raised better and then there are those men and women who are through years of systematic oppression and in the guise of traditions and culture made to believe there is absolutely no point of a movement.
A good few women are bent on believing that every single gesture displayed in the march was but absolutely right, a fraction of men and women believe the issues could have been raised better and then there are those men and women who are through years of systematic oppression and in the guise of traditions and culture made to believe there is absolutely no point of a movement. The latter tend to believe that women are already living the best of lives they could, in a society that is no short in humility and piety.
The latter is the school of thought that basically validates the existence and the need for a women rights movement. People who claim that women are treated as ‘queens of their households’, that there is no discrimination between men and women in our society, no form of injustice exists, harassment is not an issue, patriarchy basically means safeguarding women and that women are actually more privileged than oppressed, only make it more evident how deep rooted the problem actually is.
It would need for one to be in a state of hallucination to claim that there is no issue with our society’s treatment of women while every morning the newspaper arrives on our doorsteps drenched in the blood of young girls killed for honor. Disfigured for refusing marriage proposals, burnt alive by in-laws for not bringing enough dowries, trashed by husbands for issues as trivial as not serving them food warm enough, harassed for being on the street no matter if for a commute to the Quran class or a trip to the grocery store and raped for merely being born with a different anatomy; such is the state of affairs.
The other aspect witnessed during the debate is our society’s extremist tendencies that exist irrespective of gender and the socio-political nature of the issue under discussion.
It would be equally injudicious to think the problem is in anyway ‘minor’ and only a small percentage face issues that could be resolved through subtle measures or ensuring better law and which does not need to be raised at a mass level. The other aspect witnessed during the debate is our society’s extremist tendencies that exist irrespective of gender and the socio-political nature of the issue under discussion. Some of the ideas that come out of the march were astoundingly extremist in nature. Patriarchy over the course of all these centuries has penetrated so deeply in our social fabric that it is difficult to single out where the blame for oppression lies; many a woman out there suffer more at the hand of their own gender than they ever did at the behest of men. Many men in their various roles and capacities have and are empowering the women around them, counterintuitively challenged by those that hold placards with slogans like ‘men are trash’, making a mockery of former.
Generalisation has never done the world any good
Generalisation has never done the world any good. Slogans that gave an impression of pitching women against men only diverted the media and public’s attention from the efforts of all the women who had come out to highlight the genuine issues of our society. If there could have been anything more baffling than the display of such behavior, it was the insistence of many woman on social media forums that this notion ought not to be challenged, either by men or women. The attitude put many people off and instead a march that was meant to create awareness and a favourable environment for discussion about the issues of women pushed many women to condemn the whole idea. The attitude nevertheless is a portrayal of our society’s polarized nature. Modest ways and balanced approaches are rarely appreciated and often rejected as hypocritical. Several social media personalities, men and women alike, were bullied for rallying against such attitude.
The notion that everyone’s problems vary; for some the liberty of sitting according to their comfort, for others the acknowledgment of their talents and to some the freedom to breathe, is not challengeable. Aside from what our personal opinions are, events like ‘Aurat Azaadi March’ leave a profound impact, much larger than the one time, once a year crowd they attract. How they are executed impact lives of many women; women who have fought their way to attaining as little a breathing space for themselves as they could and women whose small achievements reflect onto better thriving grounds for their next generations. While we demand what is important to us we have to be mindful of the impact they may have on the struggles of other women. If the results of a movement to liberate women are impressions that divide the population and give more reasons that are used to further the subjugation of women, we are but only going around in circles.
If the results of a movement to liberate women are impressions that divide the population and give more reasons that are used to further the subjugation of women, we are but only going around in circles.
Alas, perfection comes with practice. This year women’s day has brought forth many things that are wrong with our society and approach towards our problems. This year may be spent on analyzing them and educating ourselves and the women around us about their rights besides demanding what is rightfully ours from the other gender; a liberty to think and identify our wrongs from rights.
Ayesha Ilyas has completed her M.Phil in International Relations from National Defence University, Islamabad. She is currently working as an intern at the CSCR.