Aurat March: Movement for equality

We have still a patriarchal mindset present in our society and the biggest example of this mindset we saw on television in the form of Khalil ur Rehman Qamar and others of their ilk. This is quite shocking to see the #Khaliurrehmanwesupportyou hashtag

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By Rohaina Malik

All the controversy of Aurat March that is going around was intensified as the March 8, the International Women’s Day, was approaching. As observed, the debates on different TV channels entirely focused on the slogan of “Mera Jism Meri Marzi” instead of the rights of women such as gender equality, inheritance rights, etc. Patriarchal mindset is deeply embedded in our social structures as male-chauvinists don’t want women to get independence and they consider it a threat to their dominance.

Women have been suffering since ages under the male-dominance. Pakistan is one of those countries who are very far behind in gender equality. Despite all the rights that Islam has given to women 14 centuries ago, today after 14-centuries women are still fighting for the accessibility of those rights. Islam has highlighted the importance of education in the Quran over and over again as education enlightens a person to think critically thus a person becomes capable to consider a woman as equal counterpart. Hence, lack of education is largely responsible for the lack of proper understanding of women’s rights. Similarly, the Hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) shows the importance of education “seeking knowledge is mandatory for every Muslim”. Ironically, around 24 million school-going-age-children are out of school and 56 percent of these are girls.

Women have to face immense issues. The Prophet’s first wife Hazrat Khadija was the noble and strong businesswoman of her Era but in 21 century we don’t let allow our women to work and play their part in economy. According to the WEF’s gender gap report 2020 Pakistan is on 151 rank out of 153 countries. According to UNICEF, 21 per cent of Pakistani girls are married before the age of 18, and 3 per cent before their 15th birthday. Girls who marry are more likely to drop out of school than other girls, they face larger pregnancy-related health risks and their babies are more likely to have health problems. Sexual harassment is the thing that our women face on a regular basis. 93% of Women face sexual harassment in our country in which 70 percent of women harassed by their closest ones.

Let’s have a look at some shocking statistics. According to Punjab commission on the status of women from 2014-2017, 10,000 rape cases were reported in Punjab, whereas the data collected by “The News”, it states that 2,699 women were raped in 2014, 2,509 in 2015, 2,938 in 2016 and 1,365 in 2107. The Sahil NGO released a report on rape cases where they mentioned that a total of 3,832 child abuse cases were reported in all four provinces as well as capital city. And out of 3,832 cases, 55 per cent of the victims were girls. Besides, women also face domestic violence. Pakistan ranks sixth on the list of the world’s most dangerous countries for women. According to statistics collected by White Ribbon Pakistan, an NGO for women’s rights, 4,734 women faced sexual violence between 2004 and 2016. There were more than 1,800 cases of domestic violence and over 5,500 kidnappings of women during this period. More than 51,241 cases of violence against women were reported between January 2011 and June 2017, Reported by Media. According to a survey conducted in January 2017, released during a press release by a non-governmental organisation, AGHS legal aid cell, revealed that 80 per cent women reported not getting their legal share in inheritance

We have still a patriarchal mindset present in our society and the biggest example of this mindset we saw on television in the form of Khalil ur Rehman Qamar and others of their ilk. This is quite shocking to see the #Khaliurrehmanwesupportyou hashtag. Whether the supporters of the said trend on social media justify such abusive language in the mainstream media?

Women wants their basic rights that is their right of equal education, equal pay for the same work they do as men, their inheritance share, their right on their body where they have a right to decide who they want to marry, freedom to choose their partner for marriage, right to give birth, etc.

Implementation of laws is the biggest solution of these problems. Article 25A (Right to education),the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act, 2013 aims to restraint below 18 marriages, the Sindh Domestic Violence(Prevention & Protection) Act, 2013 for the women who face domestic violence, the Protection Against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act, 2010 seeks to prevent workplace harassment. The Section 498-A of the Prevention of Anti-Women Practices Act of 2011 (Criminal Law Amendment), depriving women of inheriting property by illegal means shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to a time period of ten years but not less than five years. The convicted person may be fined of one million rupees and imprisoned at the same time.

To conclude, there is a need to provide more opportunities to women, increase in women quota in jobs and encourage them to play their part in the development of the country. They are almost half of the population of the country; hence they cannot be ignored. Equal treatment of women will create a just and prosperous society. It is time for equality!

The writer is a child rights activist and a political associate working with legislators. She tweets @MalikRohaina