Thou shall not choose yourself!

Wardah Irum:   

Image Source: Dawn


The recent Aurat March that was held on international women day in Pakistan was disparaged by many people, unfortunately including some woman as well. A huge number of women along with some men rallied across various cities of Pakistan in favor of women rights and against patriarchy. The march’s purpose was also to highlight various socio-cultural taboos faced by women across cultures. Luckily, it was given the due attention that was its right and it was supported by various right activists and celebrities. Social Media was flooded with the hashtag of Aurat march. But after the initial euphoria melted away, many ‘anti-aurat march’ voices echoed.  Apart from some Allama’s severe criticism against it as ‘behuda’ (shameless), the most heartbreaking news came from the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly. The latter (KPK assembly) jointly passed the resolution against Aurat march and termed it ‘shameful’. Although, many members of the assembly said that they support women rights but such ‘obscenity’ in the name of ‘rights’ cannot be tolerated. My heartfelt boundlessly disconcerted with this line of thought. Not because I am a supporter of obscenity in any way, but, from the sheer fact that when obscenity happens against women no resolutions are passed, nothing practically fruitful occurs. Not a day goes by, when we read news about men raping women, girls or even minors, husbands stripping his wife naked in front of his employees, husbands chaining his wife, beating his wife, husband and in-laws burnt the wife alive, girls being kidnapped and forced into prostitution and the like. What is more ‘obscene’; the fact that women spoke against what society has given to them or how our so-called Muslim society has treated their women? How come certain placards projecting the thinking of this very society became obscene when the real mentality and acts behind those projections go largely unnoticed? Or are at least not termed as obscene. It only shows the hatred against some acts or widespread mentality when a woman speaks against them, but those acts or approaches are accepted while they are practiced largely by society. When the practicing of those very things have been tolerated and largely overlooked or sidelined, why speaking about them is such a big problem?  Perhaps because it all comes down to the matter of CHOICE. The patriarchic mindset feels reluctant to accept that women can choose (whatever they want to) for themselves. Women are as much humans as men and have every damn right to choose for themselves in all the matters of their lives. When a women wears cloths that are not deemed appropriate by some predefined standards, she is considered bad, but when women are stripped naked by men (and we have a lot of such incidents) nobody stands up, nobody feels agitated enough to pass a resolution. If some women choose to join the film industry she is deemed characterless but when girls are enforced into prostitution by man, nobody passes any fatwas on those men. Every now and then the news is heard that a woman was burnt alive by her in-laws, how many times we have heard of those monstrous in-laws being jailed? Provincial assemblies unanimously coming together to fight for women and against such cruelties?

The character of a woman is always discussed and various codes of conducts are prescribed for them: how she should talk, behave and live. If a woman chooses to act opposite of those standards she is criticized but when atrocities are committed against her, mostly, only widespread silence is heard. Why no one bothers against the attitude of men? Why the whole society does not condemn men the way it condemns women even when she demands her due rights. Perhaps, because as a society, we want to ‘control’ our women and restrict their freedom of action and expression as much as it is possible. Because, we can and have tolerated rapists, pedophiles, domestic violence, harassment, female objectification, child marriages, stripping women naked, acid attacks and the like, how can we tolerate women speaking so boldly against whatever they have received from the society? It reminds me of a stanza from legendary poet Sahir ludhianvi, that befits the present situation exquisitely: duniyā ne tajrabāt o havādis kī shakl meñ , jo kuchh mujhe diyā hai vo lauTā rahā huuñ main (meaning:  I am returning whatever the world has given me by way of experience). If examined impartially, wasn’t this Aurat March the same returning of whatever the society has given to women, in those so-called bold or provocative placards. The only problem is that society had not wanted women to speak so openly. Instead, many people thought, that only brilliant achievements of women in all walks to life should have been highlighted through this march. Why? Perhaps, this way society’s obscenity could have stayed hidden, concealed and buried under the debris of the Islamic republic.

Ironically, one of the MPA of the ruling party said, they support women rights but do not accept any demands of women which are “against Islam”.  Incongruously, this society has silently accepted, endorsed, tolerated, passed down, or even protected so many acts and approaches of men that are “against Islam”. And the majority of the society routinely justifies such mindset and asks women to stay within the boundaries society has set for them, why? Because, my dear, this is a male-dominated society! Stay tuned Mard- March might be launched on this international Men’s day.

About the writer:
Wardah Irum is a post-graduate in international relations from Quaid i Azam University, Islamabad, Pakistan. Her areas of interests include gender and IR and peace and conflict studies and foreign policy analysis.




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