Torrents of misogyny were unleashed by the notion that a large gathering of womxn will happen without a man being invited as the chief guest (Hanif, 2020). The 8th of March saw womxn from all around the globe come out and march. I, a Pakistani female living alone in the Netherlands, saw two ends of a Women’s March – the one I’ ve been here in Amsterdam and the one I saw through my phone.
The Netherlands is one of the safest countries for a woman to live in, yet the fight continues to counter all sorts of gender inequality. I saw this in the streets of Amsterdam, from Dam Square to Museumplein, on a day to celebrate women came alive – I saw it in the chants in various languages, slogans and placards in support of the cause I saw it in the radiating energy of everyone in the crowd. A peaceful march on International Women’s Day to show solidarity continues to progress towards equal rights and celebration of all that has been achieved.
7,987 km away, back home, was the Aurat March. Just in its third year, this March has made its mark in a society deeply embedded in patriarchy. A week before the March, a famous figure of the media industry, Khalil ur Rehman Qamar insulted a fellow colleague, live on national television, Marvi Sarmad to an extent that it caused national outrage. The misogynistic man raised a curtain of people who had the audacity to agree that womxn do not have the rights of their own bodies. From this “Mera Jism, Meri Marzi” (My Body, My Choice) was born. It had also sparked a lot of chaos in the 2018 Aurat March where many assumed that the sole purpose of the slogan was to westernize and become un-Islamic. However, that is not the truth and this year, womxn and male allies came to tell how it’s a human right.
Grown men are asking what do these women want? The Aurat March presented a detailed list ranging from safety from sexual harassment to equal pay. However, are the men scared of this? Apparently not. It’s the strokes of the brushes and markers- the placards and posters that we womxn hold that give nightmares to these men.
Yet the women of Pakistan continue to persist, their efforts remain unmatched. Despite being on the receiving end of threatening behavior, women all across the country marched in numbers never seen before. Truly, this serves as a pivotal moment in Pakistan’s struggle for female justice. Of course, the march did not fall short in its inclusivity and highlighted other important aspects such as child protection, queer and transgender rights.
For many women, the struggle is one that carries great irony. Prohibited from joining the nationwide march declarations by their families, they continue to wage a more personal war, one that they must overcome before joining their sisters on the street.
The march, however, was not without disruption as the Islamabad chapter experienced stoning at the hands of angry Mullahs. Whatever may be, one thing is for sure; Pakistani women continue to fight the battle against patriarchy with increasing vigor every day, and they do not plan to back down without a win.
So, as I woke up on the 8th of March and got ready to march, it wasn’t just for myself. It was for all those who can’t, who aren’t ‘allowed’ to march, who aren’t even aware of their rights, who are trapped in the system and want to badly escape, who face harassment every day in various forms, who can’t walk in the night without being scared. I marched for every womxn, who has lived and currently lives in a man’s world.
Cover: The New York Times