Countries around the world including Pakistan celebrated International Women’s Day yesterday. Police violence during a protest for the rights of women working in a United States factory attracted the world’s attention to women’s rights in 1909. The United Nations formally announced March 8, 1975, to celebrate Women’s Day and according to the resolution of the General Assembly in 1977, all Member States were obliged to celebrate the Day of Women.
The formal celebration of women’s day in Pakistan began in 1990. However, that very day didn’t grab much interest. Alternatively, last year’s Aurat (Women) March garnered the attention of the entire nation. The highlights of the march were controversial slogans picked up and circulated by the media- both mainstream and social. This year’s popular slogan “my body my will” (Mera jism Meri Marzi) lead to even more outrage and a clear divide between Pakistani society.
Pro Aurat March women deem this slogan as a means of safeguarding their bodies- saying no to exploitation, sexual assault and victim-blaming. Others have criticized the slogan for being unnecessarily provocative and in contradiction with Pakistan’s cultural norms. Yet individuals on both sides of the bridge agree that violence against women and a lack of equal opportunities are issues that exist within our social fabric.
Aurat March’s achievements, purpose, need and execution-style can and should be debated. The opposing schools of thought must engage to understand- not abuse. To start a battle between the sexes is both foolish and counter-productive. Women’s day is a moment of celebration, not an opportunity to attack.