Here’s Why Men Should Support Aurat March
Hamza Azhar writes that there is nothing offensive about women taking to the streets to demand an end to discrimination and violence against them. The criticism from men who seek to decide what women should and shouldn’t do is embarrassing.
We know we live in a fundamentally patriarchal society when simple and reasonable demands of women are not only rejected but the characters of women raising their voice for fair treatment are also slandered.
While the world has openly embraced gender equality, Pakistan lags behind not only economically but also socially and culturally. We will be unable to move forward unless our society gives equal rights to women. Aurat March is a very welcome and long overdue movement organised by Pakistani women and for Pakistani women. It’s time for women to take to the streets and express solidarity with each other. Unless Pakistani women are able to show that they cannot only organise themselves but also challenge patriarchy regardless of the opposition, they will be unable to get equality in this deeply unequal society.
The criticism stemming from a wide array of Pakistani men is disgusting and embarrasses me as a Pakistani man myself. What objection do we have from women taking control of their bodies? Are we such insecure misogynists that we seek to define what women should or shouldn’t do with their bodies?
What is objectionable in Mera Jism Meri Marzi? Don’t human beings have a choice to do whatever they want with their bodies? Don’t men have this right? I feel ashamed of the misogyny of Pakistani men who seek to define what women can and cannot do. We should focus on our lives instead of obsessing over women and their clothes, their ideas and their movements.
A petition has been launched in the Lahore High Court against the Aurat March because it is deemed ‘vulgar’ by the petitioner. Last year, the KP assembly passed a resolution condemning Aurat March. This shows how afraid people are of women coming together and standing up for their rights.
Pakistani men must get the message that women will be oppressed no more. Throughout our history, women have been treated as unequal citizens of the country by both the state and the society. Some use religious overtones to define the role of women in our society while others hide behind the curtain of culture.
This attitude has led to abhorrent crimes against women which includes rape, sexual assault and killings in the name of ‘honour’. According to Human Rights Watch, there are over 1000 honour killings every year. This means that every day, around 3 women are killed in Pakistan because they tarnish the so called ‘honour’ of their male relatives who then become thirsty for their blood.
‘Honour’ killings usually involve extra-marital or pre-marital affairs but there are many cases when women of the family are killed so that the male relatives can have a greater share in the family wealth. It’s surprising that no one raises hue and cry when women are killed, but they have a problem when women take to the streets to demand equal treatment.
If Pakistan is to be a modern, democratic and secular country, the women of the country need to come forward and play their role in shaping the destiny of this great nation.
As a Pakistani man, I fully support Aurat March.