The Pakistani woman’s struggle, inclusion, economic justice, infringement of reproductive rights and environmental justice were among some of the issues discussed at the Karachi Press Club on Tuesday ahead of the Aurat March which is set to take place on Sunday.
Women, transgender and non-binary people stood together as Hum Auratein and shouted azaadi slogans and presented the surkh salam for the late Asma Jahangir at the press conference.
“We don’t march to highlight the struggles of women: all we want is to unite every gender to have a single voice for the cause of gender justice and collective social change based on principles of inclusion, dignity and respect,” said retired Justice Majida Rizvi. She added that all they wanted was a violence-free Sindh.
Speaking on behalf of the transgender community, activist Shahzadi Rai said that Pakistan did not have a rape law for trans people. Without the law, she said, it was impossible to get any justice.
Highlighting issues being faced by the community, Rai said that they wanted a separate law for rape as the police often asked insensitive and explicit questions when registering a First Information Report.
She also talked about the non-implementation of the five per cent job quota for transgenders in government departments, zero representation at the complaint desk for transgender persons and no separate jails.
Journalist Afshan Subohi discussed the importance of economic justice. She said women hardly have any decision-making role in economic issues.
“Nobody knows better than homemakers how to resolve issues with the limited resources,” she said, adding that only 30 per cent of women or housemakers contribute to Pakistan’s GDP.
Social sector researcher Nazish Brohi discussed the political representation of women. “If we find the demands of women controversial, at one time women having own CNICs was controversial too,” she said. “It all started from there to getting the right to vote.”
Female reproductive rights and the agency over their bodies were also discussed.
“Every 37 minutes, a woman dies in Pakistan. Women should exercise some agency over their bodies and make own decisions regarding it,” said Shama, a university professor. “In Pakistan, the maternal mortality rate is 276.”
Minority rights activist Ghazala Shafiq highlighted the issue of forced conversions of minor girls and early marriages.
“Conversion happens in one day, and in the same day marriage takes place,” she said. She added that it was time we stopped letting this go by saying the girls went off their own free will. This is an injustice, not free will, she explained.
Journalist Uzma Alkarim lauded the media for covering issues related to women and for supporting the Aurat March. She said that the role of journalists was to highlight pertinent issues with due diligence when it came to sensitive issues. She also demanded that there should be a daycare centre for the children of journalists.
This year the Aurat March charter of demands includes an end to violence and sexual harassment, economic justice, reproductive rights, environmental justice, right to the city, minority rights and an end to forced conversions, political participation of women, transgender and non-binary people, stopping the sexist treatment of women and transgenders on media and rights for the disabled.
The march is being held on International Women’s Day (March 8) and will take place at Frere Hall.