Pakistan is not the same since 2018 because we saw "Aurat March" (Women's March) rebranded on March 8, 2018 in three major cities of Pakistan (Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad) which challenged patriarchal norms in this country to the extent that previously women related issues which were brushed under the carpet, started making rounds on mainstream and social media. Few placards of this march went viral on social media and were widely discussed on electronic media too. The statements mentioned on those placards played role of a shock factor for a conservative society like ours in Pakistan. "Apna Khana Khud Garam Karo" which means warm up your own food, was one of the most viral placards on social media. This slogan was raised against the notion that only women are responsible for household tasks. We have reported cases in our country where fathers have killed their daughters for not making round bread and husbands have killed their wives for not serving them warm food. A large number of people in my home country thought that this placard is against the norms and values of our country. Some argued that this is against the most popular religion in Pakistan-Islam. The organisers, participants and supporters of this march were targeted. They were threatened, harassed and targeted. I made a video stating my point of view in this regard, which obviously was in favour of this statement. That was the first time when I faced unlimited online bullying. They not only targeted and abused me but character assassinated me and my family too. My mental health was impacted to the extent that within three days I had to turn off the notifications of that post.
In 2019, number of participants in these marches increased. I took part in this march too. I was in federal capital of the country, Islamabad. I covered that march as a journalist for a digital platform and was a participant at the same time. The most viral placard this time stated "Mera Jism, Meri Marzi, which simply means My Body, My Choice. Now in a country where women are raped, harassed, beaten, acid attacked, where even their dead bodies are not safe from rapists, this statement was not understood in its essence. People interpreted it as a revolt against norms of society and interpreted it as, "Women want to roam on streets without putting on clothes and want to have as much sex as they want with as many people as they want". The girl who made this placard, the organisers, the participants and the ones who support this movement of women's rights explained it multiple times by write ups, videos, print and electronic media that all it means is bodily autonomy and women's bodies should not be violated. This also meant that consent is important. But a country which is majorly lead by conservative mindset, these explanations were not enough. They once again bashed everyone who spoke in favour of this bodily autonomy.
This year, women, men, transgenders, non binary folks and other gender minority community members took part in "Aurat March" in at-least 11 big and small cities of Pakistan. This year we had open threats from some religious political parties and people with conservative mindset. Despite all the backlash women took lead and wrote history. There were thousands of people in these marches who raised slogans and placards, they not only reclaimed their public spaces but also demanded from state that their constitutional and legal rights should be given to them. Some religious goons attacked this march in federal capital of Pakistan, Islamabad, but the attendees didn't step back even an inch and faced everything.
This revolutionary movement is once again being targeted in this country, being an organiser of this march in Multan, a city in South Punjab, the same territory which where once Qandeel Balouch (a social media celebrity who was killed in the name of honour by her brother) lived and from where Mukhtara Mai (a women who was gang raped and never got justice in its essence) belong to, I am receiving death, rape and acid attack threats along with organisers from all over the country. We are once again facing all these attacks on digital as well as public spaces. Our lives, along with those of participants and supporters, are in danger but we believe that we belong to resistance. Women all over the world are fighting for their rights and despite being bashed by men and women, we are not stepping back.
We celebrated this women's day by organising and participating in Aurat March to show the world that we are fighting for our rights, we are out in solidarity with each and every person who is oppressed and there is no way that we are going back to where we were in this country.
Long Live resistance!