From metropolitan cities to far-flung areas of Pakistan, women came out to march for economic, environmental and social justice; accountability and justice for violence; reproductive rights; justice against police brutality; inclusion of transgender individuals and women with disabilities; the rights of women from minority groups; access to public spaces and push for peace and against war; against militarization in daily life and the rhetoric of jingoism. While a large number of women participated in the event a number of like-minded men also joined the march to show their support for the cause.
The Hum Aurtein movement is a joint effort of feminist women, transgender individuals, non-binary persons and sexual minorities of all classes and religious persuasions who see patriarchal structures as responsible for the sexual, economic and structural exploitation of women. They are an apolitical entity and do not take funds from NGO’s or the corporate sector. The collective organized the 2018 Aurat March; however, this year's march grew both in the number of participants and the women who helped organize it.
Social media played a large role in building momentum behind this movement. The Aurat March Lahore chapter uploaded their manifesto giving details of the importance of the Aurat March. It claims to be a movement towards collective action and consciousness building to stand against patriarchal structures in Pakistan which results in sexual, economic and structural exploitation of women. Here is an example:
a. We demand that the right to autonomy and decision-making over our bodies;
c. We agitate for equal access to quality reproductive and sexual health services for women, all genders and sexual minorities.
During the march, participants carried placards with messages about the challenges that women face in their daily lives. Some of the placards were against patriarchy, while others highlighted social issues and demanded more rights.
Here is a video uploaded to Youtube by Abdul Rahman:
Although the march received support from all over the country, as participants and organizers began broadcasting live videos of the event, people took to social media to speak out against some of the poster's slogans.
One placard said, ‘Keep your dick to yourself’, another said ‘We are not punching bags’, while another said ‘We need rights, not marriage proposals’ these and others created a backlash from some Pakistani social media users.
Some actors from Pakistan film industry came out with their condemnation of the march too. A number of people posted repulsive comments openly threatening women and even Photoshopped some pictures to malign the basic concept of the Aurat March.
Shaan Shahid a popular film actor tweeted:
These slogans do not represent our culture ,our values and the respect we have for our women that was my point .. and you missed it completely.. pic.twitter.com/9jaCSHnRUG
— Shaan Shahid (@mshaanshahid) March 11, 2019
Veena Malik, a TV actress who some time back was under pressure for her work tweeted:
— VEENA MALIK (@iVeenaKhan) March 11, 2019
Some anchors on TV also added their voice against the march and asked the Government to take action against the organizers. A Parliamentarian of the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA) Abdul Rasheed from Sindh threatened to file a police complaint against the Aurat March.
The Aurat March organisers are planning to file a complaint with the Federal Investigation Authority after they received death and rape threats online.
Nida Kirmani, a journalist pointed out a doctored photo in her tweet to tell people how the doctoring had taken place:
Doctored images of women holding signs are circulating on social media. Here is one example of my friend, Shahana Rajani. The fake one is on the left and the real one on the right. That people would stoop this low to undermine the #AuratMarch2019 says a lot about their mentality. pic.twitter.com/ga0LSermki
— Nida Kirmani (@nidkirm) March 10, 2019
The original poster on the right says: “have you learnt how to warm food”? The doctored image on the left says, “insert with love” – and there is a picture of a penis on it too.
Despite the severe backlash, many people appreciated the Aurat March and tweeted in its favor:
Has been inspiring to see the tireless efforts feminist organizers have put into the #AuratMarch2019 & #AuratAzadiMarch in various cities. The growth of the women's movement is one of the biggest reasons to hope in Pakistan today. Join us in Isb 3pm outside the Press Club, F-6. pic.twitter.com/cPBrkt1BaE
— Ammar Rashid (@AmmarRashidT) March 7, 2019
— Tony Khan (@anthonypermal) March 8, 2019
Translation: Today mothers and sisters are uniting in real sense.
The outburst against #AuratMarch2019 is reason enough for me to be a marcher. It is clear that feminism is totally misunderstood & women's anger & frustration against everything they face is still unacceptable. #IAmAMarcher
— Sadaf Khan (@nuqsh) March 15, 2019
A day after the Aurat March, a group of men retaliated by announcing a Mard March (Men March) in Karachi planned for the 23rd March. A number of men wrote and put up placards on social media posters as a rebuttal to Aurat March; however, it did not get a positive response:
— Circular 🍋 | 🇵🇰 (@NotforLemonade) March 11, 2019
Aurat March was a display of power and unity by women who are not seen in public spaces freely and their opinions and demands are almost never heard. The march was successful in raising awareness about the issues and augers well for the organizers who feel that it is merely the first step on the path towards making women's voices heard.