Sunday, March 8, 2020

Video Report - #AuratAzadiMarch - #WomenDay2020 - International Women's Day 2020: We are #GenerationEquality

Video Report - #AuratAzadiMarch - #WomenDay2020 - International Women's Day 2020: How it began and why it's still important

International Women's Day: With Shoes And Stones, Islamists Disrupt Pakistan Rally

Demonstrators belonging to Islamist groups attacked an International Women's Day rally in the Pakistani capital Islamabad on Sunday, hurling rocks, chunks of mud and even their shoes. The demonstrators, who were at a rival rally held by hardline Islamist organizations, were particularly enraged by one slogan the women's day rally adopted: "mera jism, mera marzi" – "my body, my choice."

Riot police set up large cloth barricades to dive the rival rallies, which flanked either side of a main road. But the police were also there to protect the women's day protesters, after the hardline men and women threatened violence.
As the protest was winding down, dozens of men tried to push through the barricade, including a man who held a little girl aloft on his shoulders. According to a video uploaded to Twitter by a BBC reporter, police used batons to push them back. Still, for the next few minutes, they hurled projectiles that scattered the women's day protesters, as journalists huddled behind concrete road dividers.
The hardline groups, their surrogates and conservative talking heads, took to the airwaves preceding the rally to condemn Pakistani feminists, accusing them of encouraging anti-Islamic vulgarity by raising a slogan that hinted that a woman had the right to do as she pleased.
The tensions even boiled over on a live talk show, where a screen writer swore at a prominent Pakistani liberal after she interrupted him by chanting the slogan. "Nobody would even spit on your body," he shouted in a clip widely shared on social media.
Conservative lawyers petitioned the courts in Pakistan's three cities to try ban the women's marches. One prominent Islamist opposition leader, known as Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman, threatened protesters on Feb. 29, warning them not to chant "my body, my choice." "God willing, we will also come out into the streets, and we will destroy you," he warned. And a senior teacher at Jamiat Hafsa, a hardline women's seminary in the Pakistani capital, told NPR her students would halt the march by organizing a rival "modesty march."
"This is a march to stop that march," said the woman, who uses the name Bint Azwa (the women at the seminary often use first names or fake names to avoid being identified by security institutions that monitor their activities). "We are not going to let those women march the streets of our country, our neighborhood, with those vulgar chants."
The violence underscored how hardline Islamist groups played upon conservative outrage over the slogan "my body, my choice," to assert their presence in the Pakistani capital – and demonstrate their muscle.The opposition leader Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman has struggled to find a toehold in Pakistan's freewheeling politics since his party was forced into opposition. The hardline Jamiat Hafsa was violently shut down in 2007, after a standoff that killed more than 100 people. The women returned to the seminary only this February, and have dared security forces to remove them again.On Sunday, dozens of the seminary women turned up at the counter-rally, clad in long black robes, headscarves and face veils, segregated from dozens of men who stood in a nearby park. They stood in military-style rows, their fearsome appearance only jarred by blue, green and pink bows pinned to their shoulders, to identify which bus they should return on, explained one 25-year-old, who only gave her first name, Rubina."We don't want women to make choices for their bodies. The choice rests with God," she said. Nodding toward the women's day march, she described the women there as "naked." "These people don't even wear dupatas," she exclaimed, referring to the shawl that Pakistani women traditionally drape across their chests to signify modesty.
On the other side, at the women's march, hundreds of men, women and transgender Pakistanis clustered. Some waved the red flag of a leftist party. Others held up signs, including "my body, my choice," but they denounced so-called "honor" killings, where men murder their female relatives for bringing alleged shame onto the family. Some demanded to know the fate of female political activists who mysteriously disappeared.
"Pakistan is getting more and more divided over time," said Ambreen Gilani, a 41-year-old development consultant, gesturing to the Islamists across the road. The opposition to the women's march helped motivate another protester to turn up, Sukaina Kazmi, a chemical engineer. She gestured to her Muslim headscarf, "Our religion does not teach us any of the things they are standing up against, our religion actually does fight for women's rights," she said.
As the protesters regrouped and walked away from the dozens of men trying to assault them, one organizer, Anam Rathor, said the violence underscored why they were demonstrating. "This proves our point, and this movement is growing. And now we will have more people. The reason why they are throwing stones is because they are afraid of us and that makes us happy."

#AuratAzadiMarch #AuratMarch2020 #AuratMarchIslamabad - #Pakistan's Women's March: Shaking patriarchy 'to its core'

Young activists and their older counterparts explain why they are uniting to fight for women's rights in Pakistan.

 Thousands of women have marched across Pakistan's main urban centres to mark International Women's Day.
It is the third successive year that the Aurat March, women's march, has been held in the country.
The theme for this year's march was "Mera Jism, Meri Marzi" (My body, my choice), which according to the organisers' manifesto, is about demanding a society without exploitative patriarchal structures and control of economic resources, the right of women to make decisions about their own bodies, and ending harassment, forced religious conversions and the sexist portrayal of women in the media, among other things.
The marches were organised by a collective that includes Women's Action Forum, a women's rights organisation, Women's Democratic Front, a socialist-feminist organisation, and Hum Aurtein, a feminist group.
"The women who are emerging are shattering all those [patriarchal] ideas. They are just not going to take it any more. This is very unsettling for a lot of people," explained Ammar Rashid, president of the Punjab chapter of Awami Workers' Party, a left-wing political party that supported the marches.
"The thought of a women's march advocating women's rights shakes patriarchy to the very core."
Fatima Hassan is a student activist who attended the march in Karachi. "I'm a young woman [and] I'm here today because I don't feel comfortable walking alone at night," she explained. "And I'm here for all those women who couldn't be here today."
In recent months, Pakistan has seen a wave of protests - by women demanding equality, students demanding the reinstatement of student unions and ethnic groups demanding their rights. 
Tooba Syed is the political representative of the Women's Democratic Front and one of the organisers of the Islamabad march. She feels that all of the recent protest movements have one thing in common: they are being led by the country's progressive youth.
And among the youth, women are becoming particularly vocal, she says.
"The space for women is growing. I see many more women engaging today than I did perhaps five years ago. I remember being the only woman at some protests and sometimes I would be joined by maybe two or three more women but today that has changed."

The backlash

But if more women are feeling empowered to come out and march, it has not come without a backlash.
Some of the signs carried at last year's marches attracted a lot of animosity. Among them were posters addressing unwanted sexual advances, explicit photos women receive from men online and even the "correct way" for a woman to sit.

As this year's march approached, those who opposed it became more vocal.
Maulana Fazl ur Rehman, the leader of the religious right-wing political party Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F), asked law enforcement bodies to take action to stop the marches.
"If they want to bring awareness to the issues that are faced today in society, if they are associated with rights for women granted to them in Islam and the constitution we have absolutely no problem with that. What occurred last year was against the norms of culture and society. So much so that I cannot even bring myself to speak of them," he told Al Jazeera in a telephone interview.
At least three petitions were filed in courts across the country with the aim of stopping the marches. A petition in Islamabad was filed by JUI-F and Umme Hassan, wife of the Muslim leader from Islamabad's Lal Masjid.
None of the petitions was successful. 
Lawyer Azhar Siddique, one of the petitioners whose case was dismissed by the Lahore High Court, argues that the entire movement is part of a Western agenda to ruin the culture of Pakistan. "I have worked for women's rights more than these people [the marchers]. And where in Pakistan other than a few places has there been discrimination against women?" he told Al Jazeera.
Nighat Dad, a lawyer and one of the organisers of the march in Lahore, disagreed.
"Is it not true that children are raped and killed every other day? Is it not true that girls are deprived of education? Is it not true that women who have to walk to their workplaces are harassed on the streets?
Is it not true that women face the double burden of making money as well as taking care of children and the entire household? If all of this is true, then why create such a stupid drama about one or two posters?" she asked.
"They don't want to hear or see women taking to the streets against economic injustice and patriarchal violence that are both tied in together," Dad added.
According to the Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey (2012-13), almost 32 percent of women have experienced physical violence in Pakistan and 40 percent of ever-married women have suffered spousal abuse at some point in their life.

These numbers are likely to be an underestimate as, according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), one in two Pakistani women who have experienced violence never sought help or told anyone about it.
According to Human Right Watch, 32 percent of primary school age girls are out of school in Pakistan, compared with 21 percent of boys. By ninth grade, only 13 percent of girls are still in school.


There are other types of opposition the organisers must navigate.

On March 3, in Islamabad, a mural of artwork made by people involved with the women's march was destroyed by students from a nearby religious school within hours of it going up.
Posters Aurat March Alia Chughtai
Posters for the women's march were ripped off walls in Lahore [Amal Awais Chughtai/Al Jazeera] 
On February 23, in Lahore, posters made by march volunteers and participants were torn down.
Recently, an exchange between Khalil ur Rehman Qamar, a well-known television serial writer, and writer Marvi Sirmed, that was aired live on a debate-style show on Neo News went viral. In it, Qamar shouted abuse at Sirmed over the My Body, My Choice slogan.
Neo News CEO Nasrullah Malik subsequently apologised to Sirmend on social media. 

@marvisirmed Please accept my sincere apology on the incident which happened today on our screen. Being Head of NEO NEWS I am extremely sorry for that and strict action will be taken. We condemn the behaviour of Khalil Qamar.
Nasrullah Malik
Executive Director

"Men like Khalilul Rehman Qamar want to deflect attention from the fact that the global economic crisis is begetting social movements pioneered by women and that is why they make so much noise about a select few placards," said Dad.
"The foundations of patriarchy stand challenged today and since these foundations are so fragile, their guardians have jumped into action and are resorting to every measure in their capacities to ensure that women are back to being silenced."
Al Jazeera attempted to reach Qamar for a comment but was unable to.
Mural Wall Aurat March Alia Chughtai
A mural that was defaced in Islamabad [Asad Hashim/Al Jazeera] 

Religious parties

In advance of Sunday's marches, a smaller rally of approximately 300 people was held on Saturday night in Sukkur, in the southern province of Sindh.
Arfana Mallah has been an activist in Pakistan's Sindh province for more than 20 years. She is from Women's Action Forum, a leading women's rights organisation, and one of the co-founders of the Sukkur rally.
She chose Sukkur because, according to data compiled by Women's Action Forum, in the last year there have been at least 50 forced conversions and marriages of women from religious minorities in the city.
"The slander on social media against us is insufferable," she said. "There are thousands of posts they are putting up constantly against us, and saying we are vulgar and immoral women and it's acceptable to kill us for the sake of honour."
She believes Pakistan's powerful right-wing religious parties are particularly concerned by the women's movement for equality because they cannot control it.
"And if women step out of [the limited role they allow them] what will they have left to define chastity on?" she said of these parties.
Pushpa Kumari is an activist from Hyderabad who works to stop forced kidnappings, conversions and marriages of Hindu girls who attended the march in Karachi. She said many of the girls affected are between the ages of 10 and 14.
"Those girls cannot be here today," she said. "Those girls are broken down so much that there is nothing left.
"There are two girls from my family who were kidnapped; we don't even know if they are alive," she added.

'They don't know the women of Pakistan'

In February 1983, a group of women marched through the streets of Lahore, despite martial law which prohibited gatherings of more than two people.
They were met by police who hit them with batons and arrested them. 
The protest was against the law of evidence, which would reduce the testimony of a woman to half that of a man.
Farida Shaheed was there that day in 1983, and today she helps younger women protest.
She says the marchers were called immoral back then too. The only difference then, she adds, is that people seemed particularly alarmed by women having short hair, whereas that does not seem to be such a concern now.
"There is a ... so-called politics of respectability," she explained. "What is respectable and what is not, what is permissible and what is not is a debate.
"My fundamental question is, who defines what is respectable and what is not? The problem is that these people don't seem to know the women of Pakistan any more. They are completely mistaken about where this country and its women are.
"We have incredibly talented, innovative, powerful, active young women and they are coming together with the older and we are all united," she said.
Nadira Hasnain was nine years old when Pakistan came into being in 1947. She sat perched on a chair near the stage at the Karachi rally.
"How society has evolved frightens me," she explained. "In my family and growing up in a newly made Pakistan, the education of women wasn't questioned. The safety of women wasn't an issue."
Nadira Hasnain says she attended the march in 'solidarity with all those girls who don't get a chance to be educated' [Alia Chughtai/Al Jazeera]
Ghinwa Bhutto, the wife of Murtaza Bhutto, the slain brother of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, also attended the march in Karachi. 
"Finally, spring is here," she told Al Jazeera. "This movement, along with other movements, is a sign that ... people are getting stronger and the rulers are getting weaker."
"The people want discourse. There is a change in what people are willing to accept. Being gay, lesbian, gender issues, socialism, progressive politics - this is all being slowly accepted and absorbed by the people."


Nearly 90 percent of the world’s population, regardless of gender, holds at least one bias against women, according to a U.N. study published on Thursday ahead of International Women’s Day on March 8.
The United Nations Development Program ranked 75 countries representing 80 percent of the world’s population and found that nine in 10 people, including women, held some degree of prejudice against women. The results are based on two rounds of a World Values Survey conducted between 2005 and 2014.
According to the report, the most common prejudiced views are that men are better politicians and business leaders than women; that going to university is more important for men than women; that men should get preferential treatment in competitive job markets. The percentage of those holding at least one sexist bias was largest in Pakistan—where 99.81 percent of the population held such prejudices—followed by Qatar and Nigeria, both at 99.73 percent. Neighboring India has 98.28 percent of the population holding at least one bias against women.
Countries with the lowest population of those with sexist beliefs were Andorra, at 27.01 percent, Sweden with 30.01 percent and the Netherlands with 39.75 percent. France, Britain and the United States each came in with similar scores, 56 percent, 54.6 percent and 57.31 percent of people, respectively, hold at least one sexist belief.
The numbers show “new clues to the invisible barriers women face in achieving equality” despite “decades of progress,” the U.N. Development Program said in a statement accompanying the report. “The work that has been so effective in ensuring an end to gaps in health or education must now evolve to address something far more challenging: a deeply ingrained bias—among both men and women—against genuine equality,” UNDP administrator Achim Steiner said.
The report noted that information on how bias is changing in around 30 countries shows that while in some countries there have been improvements, in others attitudes appear to have worsened in recent years. This suggests, says the report, that progress cannot be taken for granted.
The agency has called on governments and institutions to change discriminatory beliefs and practices through education. Beyond inequalities in education, health and the economy, the statement also called out one of the report’s most chilling findings: 28 percent of people globally believe it is okay for a man to beat his wife.

#InternationalWomensDay - Islamists hurl stones and shoes at Women's Day marchers in Pakistan

Islamists pelted campaigners with stones, shoes and sticks as they marched through Pakistan’s capital on Sunday to mark International Women’s Day.
Women and men carry signs as they take part in an Aurat March, or Women's March in Lahore, Pakistan March 8, 2020. REUTERS/Mohsin Raza
Women and men joined the event in Islamabad, the largest such rally in the country, for what is known in Pakistan as the Aurat March, using the Urdu word for women.
Dozens of men and women from the Red Mosque brigade, consisting of several local militant groups, staged a rival rally just across from the women’s march venue, District Deputy Commissioner Hamza Shafqaat said.
Police official Mazhar Niazi said the officers blocked the Islamists as they tried to break through a cordon to attack the marchers.
A Reuters witness and Niazi said the Islamists threw stones, bricks, sticks and shoes at the marchers. Niazi said no one was injured.
He said a criminal case would be registered against the Islamists for violating the law and attempting to attack the women march.
There has been an uproar in conservative circles over slogans used at the past two such events, including “My body, my choice”, “My body is not your battleground” and “Stop being menstrual phobic”.
Following last year’s event, organizers said they faced a backlash including murder and rape threats.
Ahead of this year’s event, organizers say posters and murals were vandalized, including one by the Islamists from the Red Mosque.
Marches in other parts of the country were held peacefully amid tight security.
A court in the eastern city of Lahore allowed the march there to take place on condition that organizers and participants adhered to “decency and moral values”.

#InternationalWomensDay - Women across #Pakistan come out for the #AuratMarch

Women across the country came out on Sunday (March 8) to mark International Women’s Day by joining the Aurat March.
The march was held in Karachi, Lahore, Quetta and Islamabad.
Here are some of the highlights from the event:
Women in Quetta marched against honour killings, acid attacks, denying women education and harassment, among other issues.
Men also participated in the march and said they will work towards ensuring women get their rights.
In Karachi, the march at Frere Hall was guarded by policemen in riot gear.
They checked the CNICs of participants, both male and female, and didn’t allow men to enter without a female companion.
Many women from Hyderabad have come to Karachi for the march.

Politicians such as Ghinwa Bhutto and Law Adviser Murtaza Wahab are also at the march.