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Aurat March 2021: Pakistan women demand better healthcare

People gather in Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad and Quetta

SAMAA | - Posted: Mar 8, 2021 | Last Updated: 8 months ago
SAMAA |
Posted: Mar 8, 2021 | Last Updated: 8 months ago

Photo: SAMAA/Rahim Sajwani

Women, men, and transgender people across Pakistan marched against patriarchy in Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Hyderabad, Quetta, and Multan.

Aurat March is held every year on International Women’s Day.

This time, the marchers have asked for better healthcare facilities for everyone as the country continues to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic.

Related: This Aurat March, one man faces Fata’s guilt and madness

“The COVID-19 pandemic laid bare the stark inequalities in our society,” said the Feminist Manifesto on Health released by Aurat March Lahore. “Globally, we found the heart of society to be diseased. Diseased with injustice and inequality, with patriarchy and violence on gendered bodies, with vast inequalities and capitalism, and with the dehumanisation of races and ethnicities. Our collective body was in pain.”

Related: Mukhtar Bibi shares why she attends Aurat March

The preparations have been completed and people are arriving at different locations with their placards.

Islamabad

Islamabad residents gathered at the National Press Club at 1pm and started marching towards D-Chowk.

They are being escorted by police officers for their safety.

Last year, a group of men pelted stones at the march participants and attacked them with sticks too. The policemen who had been deployed for the security of the participants tried to bring the situation under control and closed the F6 road for traffic.

Karachi

People in Karachi have started gathering at Frere Hall, men cannot attend the march unless there is a woman with them.

Over 80 police officers have been stationed for security.

The marchers will walk from Frere Hall to Metropole from 4:30pm to 5pm, said SP Zahida who has been deployed to ensure the security of the people.

aurat march 2021

Rukhsana Parveen Khokhar, a Rahim Yar Khan resident, said that women play an important role in the cultivation of crops but are not given the credit they receive. She brought her four-year-old daughter to the march and said that she’s here because she wants to ride motorcycles.

There has hardly been any discussion on marital rape, said a participant.

“This year I’m marching so that a law is passed for the victims of marital rape,” she added.

Participants of the Aurat March moved to the Metropole traffic signal Monday evening. They staged a sit-in there and announced their demands.

The marchers, however, dispersed after an hour.

Quetta

People gathered at the Quetta Press Club and marched as they raised slogans for women empowerment, equality, and the rights of students.

Javeria Malik, one of the participants, said that she has come to the march to raise awareness about the rights of women labourers. “They are being oppressed and nothing is being done about it.” She remarked that women are denied equal pay and don’t have access to the same employment opportunities as men.

“We also want to raise awareness about the problems faced by students living in hostels and want community laundries and kitchens to be set up,” she added.

aurat march 2021
A student holds a placard asking for punishment for people involved in the Balochistan university harassment case. Photo: SAMAA TV/Mujeeb Achakzai

Lahore

The march started from Lahore Press Club, passed through Faletti’s Hotel and reached the PIA office building. The march began at 2pm.

An installation titled ‘pidrshahi k dhabbay’ was put on display too. “It brings together accounts of real woman and girls, mentioning the age, along with other details, at which they first encountered patriarchy-whether it be in the form of violence, harassment, emotional abuse or denial of freedoms,” Aurat March Lahore said.

aurat march 2021
Photo: Aurat March Lahore

“We use these clothing items to draw attention to the hidden domestic labour that women perform. We use them because these clothes are extensions of our bodies.”

Hyderabad

Women from other cities have turned up for the Aurat March in Hyderabad.

Jamna Bheel, a resident of Bheel Colony in Mirpurkhas, said that she has come to the march because she doesn’t have anyone to speak to about her problems. “We are killed in our homes.”

Women Democratic Front’s federal secretary Alya Bakshal said they want equality for all, equality to be recognised as a [free] person. Women have come together to demand her personhood, to fulfill her dreams, to create a new, progressive system. “Let’s unite to become a voice for the women,” she added.

Multan

In Multan, the marchers have gathered at the Nawa Shehar Chowk, and they will walk towards the press club.

Participants of the march danced as they chanted slogans against injustice and patriarchy.

“This year we are fighting patriarchy and Covid-19 simultaneously. So wear a mask and sanitise your hands,” said Aurat March Multan in a tweet.

Women’s Day in Pakistan

Many Pakistani celebrities, politicians, government officers and other officials in their messages on International Women’s Day said that they hope for a future where women aren’t denied their basic rights.

Pakistani women have contributed immensely to the nation’s glory and honour, said Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa. Women in uniform have proved their mettle by contributing copiously in diverse fields serving the nation and humanity. They deserve our immense respect and gratitude, he said.

Information minister Shibli Faraz said that the government is committed to empowerment and social protection of women by providing them equal opportunities of progress and ensuring their rights.

Women’s rights is top priority of the federal government because it is imperative for the formation of a progressive society, said National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaisar.

“A society without empowered women becomes dysfunctional,” said PML-N vice-president Maryam Nawaz in a tweet. “I dream of a Pakistan where women excel in every field and play leading roles.”

Feminist manifesto

The Aurat March Lahore released its manifesto on healthcare, and asked for an increase in the national budget for health, and ensuring proper healthcare for marginalised groups.

“Feminist Manifesto on Healthcare – Aurat March Lahore 2021” details the organisers’ demands regarding physical, reproductive and mental health.

“We demand that the state fulfil its own constitutional obligations: Article 38 of the Constitution of Pakistan states that the state shall “provide basic necessities of life, such as food, clothing, housing, education and medical relief, for all such citizens, irrespective of sex, caste, creed or race, as are permanently or temporarily unable to earn their livelihood on account of infirmity, sickness or unemployment.”

The manifesto asks for health budget to be increased to 5% of the GDP in the 2021-22 fiscal budget with specific information on allocated for women’s, transgender, reproductive, mental and rehabilitative health.

It expressed concerns at the government’s universal healthcare programme, Sehat Sahulat programme, being made accessible to only those who are registered with NARDA and have a CNIC.

“We recognise gender-based violence and violation of our bodies as a healthcare issue since it disproportionately harms the physical and mental capacities of survivors, and their loved ones,” it added.

Aurat March Sindh, on the other hand, has asked for additional hostels for women students and an end to an “undeclared curfew” for them in the province.

It has also demanded the Sindh Domestic Workers Act be enacted, which will ensure the right to minimum wage for domestic workers.

Reporting by Farah Rabbani, Noorul Amin Danish, Muzhira Amin, Sindhu Abbasi, Mujeeb Achakzai, and Shaheen Shahzadi.

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