Aurat March

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The Aurat March (Urdu: مارچ عورت), was a protest organized in various cities of Pakistan including Lahore, Hyderabad, Karachi and Islamabad, to observe International Women's Day on March 8th 2018, and again the following year.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10] It was organised in Lahore and Karachi by a women's collective called Hum Auratein (We the Women), and in other parts of the country, including Islamabad, Hyderabad, Quetta, Mardan, and Faislabad, by Women democratic front (WDF), Women Action Forum (WAF), and others.[11] The march was endorsed by the Lady Health Workers Association, and included representatives from multiple women's-rights organizations.[12][13] The march called for accountability for violence against women, and support for women who experience violence and harassment at the hands of security forces, in public spaces, at home, and at the workplace.[6] Reports suggest that more and more women rushed to join the march until the crowd became scattered. Women (as well as men) carried posters bearing phrases such as ‘Ghar ka Kaam, Sab ka Kaam’, and ‘Women are humans, not honour’ became a rallying cry.

Women dressed in T-shirts that read ‘my favorite season is the fall (of patriarchy)’ and ‘girls just want fun-damental human rights’ (i.e. Fundamental rights that includes right to enjoy "Fun" also). Some wore masks of deceased social media celebrity Qandeel Baloch and one group held ‘patriarchy’s janaza’ (funeral procession of patriarchy) on their shoulders. Participants were from all walks of life and included many eminent people. Social media and YouTube video messages expressed support for those who were marching. Nimra Afzal claimed in her article, that Aurat March is a women's empowerment movement which is not restricted to just peace rallies, raising awareness placards or sloganeering for women's equality in a patriarchal society. The movement is just not man-hating or elitist but a movement that asks for public spaces, with hashtags like #JaggaDein (Give space).[5]


According to Zuneera Shah, while etymology of word 'Aurat' (Woman) indicates being misogynistic Since Western supremacy over feminist movements feeds into a distaste towards feminism in countries such as Pakistan. Localization of the struggle for women's rights has importance among South Asian activists and feminists the way to relate the feminist movement.[7] Shah says With the Aurat March, terms such as 'pidar shahi' (patriarchy) and 'aurat march' are being circulated and created. [7]

Theme for 2018 march was 'Equality’ whereas theme for 2019 march is 'Sisterhood and Solidarity'.[6] Nighat Dad explains in her article that "The agenda of this march was to demand resources and dignity for women, for transgender community, for religious minorities and for those on the economic margins but more importantly to acknowledge that women’s emancipation is inherently linked with the improvement of all mistreated groups and minorities.


Manifesto demands economic justice, including implementation of labour rights, the Sexual Harassment Against Women in the Workplace Act 2010, recognition of women’s input to the ‘care economy’ as unpaid labour, and provision of maternity leaves and day care centres to ensure women's inclusion in the labour force.

Among other things, it also demands access to safe drinking water and air, protection of animals and wildlife, recognition of women's participation in production of food and cash crops, access to a fair justice system, inclusion of women with disabilities as well as the transgender community, reproductive justice, access to public spaces inclusion in educational institutions, rights of religious minorities, promotion of an anti-war agenda, end to police brutality and enforced disappearances.[6]

Posters slogans and Media debate[edit]

The hundreds of posters featured at women's day march across Pakistan highlighting fundamental rights issues such as access to education and employment [8] Some of March 2018 posters included slogans like "Our rights are not for grab neither are we", "Girls just wanna have Fundamental human rights", 'Transwomen are women shut up', "Tu kare tou Stud, Mai Karun tou Slut (If you do it then Stud but If I do it then Slut)", "Safe street program for women", "Stop being Menstrual phobic", "Consent ki Tasbeeh Rozana Parhen (Ask for consent every time)", "Paratha Rolls Not Gender Roles."[14][15]

In March 2019, some posters also appeared saying "Man of quality will never be afraid of equality, "Jab tak aurat tang rahay gi, jang rahay gi, jang rahay gi"[16],“Keep your dick pics to yourself”. Another had a drawing of a vagina and two ovaries and the words: “Grow a pair!” Another poster said, “If you like the headscarf so much, tie it around your eyes one depicting a girl sitting with her legs spread out, Lo Beth Gayi Sahi Se or the irreverent Akeli Awara Azaad "Najar teri gandi aur purdah mein keroun" (Why do I adopt veil cause of your bad habit of ogling) "Aaj waqai maa behn ek ho rahi hai"[17] depicts all women coming together without differences. One poster "says that maybe we haven’t seen any woman as independent as a ‘tawaaif’, so this is the reason we (some of our society) consider every independent woman a ‘tawaaif’." "My shirt is not short, it’s your mindset that is narrow" Posters like "these are my streets too" claimed for public spaces.

Ailia Zehra deconstructs a poster in her article that says "If Cynthia does it, she’s applauded. If I do it, I’m the villain". For those who do not know, Cynthia Ritchie is an American social media influencer facilitated by Pakistan establishment's whitewash for state propaganda. The said woman rode a bicycle somewhere in Pakistan and tweeted her picture in a bid to bring down local feminists by implying that they lie when they say women cannot freely access public spaces. This placard admirably summarizes what is wrong with an American woman lecturing Pakistani women on freedom and mobility. Ailia Zehra regrets double standards saying Yes, Pakistani men are fine with women riding bicycles on the roads – as long as the women are white.[18]

Nighat Dad who organised the women's march in Lahore, said people were angry over the posters because most Pakistanis, especially men were not yet ready to allow them free choice. As per Nighat Dad that restricted topics like women's rights to their own bodies, their sexuality, are being discussed for the first time was an immense success of the march. Ms. Dad complaints “online harassments has gone too far in terms of death and rape threats to the organisers and also to the marchers.”[19][20]

Many grumbled that the marchers were “vulgar” opportunists who had transgressed on conservative values in the Muslim-majority country and "undermined" a legitimate fight for rights with a liberal, anti-Islamic agenda.[8] [10]

Feminist writer Sadia Khatri exposes this built up of narrative in her article, "Should feminists claim Aurat March's Vulgar Posters ? yes absolutely. Khatri says people have been posting photographs showing the posters that didn’t get as much air-time, posters addressing the range of ‘important’ causes that news anchors have accused the March of ignoring, like education, inheritance and marital rights. By bringing up the manifesto to defend the posters, for instance, Pakistan Feminists isolated themselves from the supposedly provocative posters, and in fact confirm their ‘vulgarity’. It implies that Pakistani feminists agree that feminism should operate within the bounds of ‘respectability’. According to her accepting narratives prescribing boundaries of respectability are traps that needs to be avoided by feminists and not to be allowed to be cemented in any social discourse. Feminism with conditions is no feminism. It maintains the division between what is ‘acceptable’ and what is ‘immodest’, what is ‘public’ and ‘private’, allowed and not. It pits the two against each other, rewarding the feminists who rally for legal rights and work-life balance, and slut shaming those who reclaim gendered slurs and carry the posters they did at the March. She questions whether feminism to allow discriminate and gatekeeping, and this gatekeeping is patriarchy's way of bolstering the binary of purpose vs pleasure, where the feminism of purpose (health, education, marital rights) is ‘good’ feminism, and the feminism of pleasure (sexual politics, bodily autonomy, agency over time and leisure) is ‘bad’ feminism, ‘immoral’ and ‘frivolous’. She explains as feminists use the language of real and serious, end up creating a distinction between ‘actual’ issues and 'pretended' ones and rush to clarify that feminists have included ‘important’ causes in our demands, end up suggesting that other causes are unimportant.[21]

In an article "Womansplaining the Aurat March: Dear men, here’s why Pakistan’s women are asserting their rights" writer Rimmel Mohydin handles misogynist objections to the Women's march slogans in a different way.[22] Rimmel Mohydin suggests those men to "smile, you’ll look prettier that way." Ms. Mohydin humorously questions Women can be the subject of many sexist jokes, but if the women crack a joke on what ground that wit is considered offensive?[22] She says Every wisecrack, every sassy one-liner, every appealing slogan masked years and years of invisible pain that women have suffered.[22] A Woman can tell men through their placards that she won't warm his bed if he doesn't warm his food, but what really gets misogynist mind hot and troubled is that she, a woman, could laugh at his expense.[22]

On an effort of misogynist parliamentarian's effort or agenda finding conspiracy theory behind women's march Ms. Mohydin sarcastically quips, "It is difficult to know where to place your feet when you find that the backs that you have been walking on are now standing up. That's why the author's compassion is with misogynist politicians". Referring poster slogan “Keep your dick pics to yourself.” Ms. Mohydin says What seems to have affronted the male collective the most is the shattering of a fantasy world where women enjoy being subjected to unrequested pictures of male genitals. Poster slogan has hit them hard. It has upset them. And now, they are angry and trying to speak to us in a language that they think we'll understand. They tell us this is not feminism but fail to explain how. They tell us it's about sex, and as ‘respectful’ women, how dare we utter of it.[22] “When women make demands about their personal lives, their bodies, their sexuality, that’s when people feel threatened,” Dad said. “So it’s OK to ask the government for the right to education but you can’t say you are happily divorced because the breakdown of a matrimony is a shameful thing, a woman’s failure, and you can’t say ‘don’t send me dick pics’ because so-called decent women don't use expressions like dick.” Nobody seems to say anything to the sender, but the reluctant receiver is apparently the problem. Either she likes it (which, to them, makes her a ‘slut’) or she doesn't (which offends them). So as usual, women cannot win Ms. Mohydin says. Remaining on the same issue Ms. Mohydin strongly questions "Are they unsettled at the loss of this opportunity to titillate women with their phallus? Why are they all shrivelling up? Have protesting women given them performance anxiety ? or what.[22]

Continuing her strong denunciation Ms. Mohydin says, "The placards were a mirror and instead of taking this moment as an opportunity to introspect, they have decided to beat their chest instead. Not their slain bodies, not their acid-burnt faces, not their immobility, not their lack of representation, not the dearth of affordable housing, not the moral policing their choices and bodies are subjected to, not the denial of female education, not the constant threat of sexual harassment and onslaught, not the social structures that cut women’s potential in half, not the exploitation, not the objectification, not the fact that for many, women are still not human. It seems to me that for them, the problem is women themselves, Ms. Mohydin rues.[22]

Shaan Shahid, arguably Pakistan’s well-known film star, wrote on Twitter he thought the posters did not “represent our culture, our values”. He was criticized back for his films blatantly sexualize them and reduce their existence to a mere prop to exert the ‘masculinity’ of his character that he defends with Freedom of Expression argument but when real women call out this misogynistic culture with his hypocrisy he looks down freedom of expression of women.[23]

Veena Malik, a popular actor who caused an uproar in 2012 when she appeared with lesser clothes on the cover of an Indian men's magazine, posted that the march had “brought humiliation to women of Pakistan”.[24] But, Twitter users were prompt to remind Veena that "the same women you are calling out for 'humiliating' Pakistani femininities were standing by you as mullahs imposed fatwas on you."

Kishwar Naheed, a poet best cherished for a poem called “Us sinful women”, was seen in a video saying: “The next time you make such slogans, remember your culture, your traditions.”[25] Sadia Khatri a feminist writer, replies back through her column in Dawn saying someone should remind Kishwar Naheed, that it is specifically culture and tradition; that keeps the frivolous and the silly relegating women to private spaces where women court the greatest risks, where the threat of assault is most prevalent, and where, when women are harmed, the walls around womanhood remind women to stay silent, like ‘good’, ‘honourable’ women those culture and tradition are what upturned when thousands of women come out into the streets, dancing and laughing with exhilaration.[26]

According to Guardian journalist Mehreen Zahra-Malik, Some of the profanity-filled tirades were more frightening. A film student, posted screenshots of a group of boys sexually harassing her 16-year-old younger sister online and threatening her with rape for posting on Instagram in support of the march.[27] Pakistan being conservative society activists sporting simple posters like "You can’t say you are happily divorced' also received messages filled with sexual innuendo and threats of sexual violence. Women participating in Aurat March had received threats of physical and sexual violence from social media users after posting photographs of the posters. In Pakistan, the threats of violence are not hollow. Roughly 500 women are annihilated each year by family members who believe their honour has been damaged, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.

On March 20, 2019, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly held a protest in the reaction of the Aurat March. Rehana Ismail of the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA), presented the resolution, saying that women participating in the march were holding "obscene" placards and raising slogans. The resolution said that the demands made at the march about women empowerment were “un-Islamic and shameful”.[28]

One popular poster called for men to warm their own food; another asked them to find their own socks. And one read, “I’ll warm your food but you warm your own bed.” As per Nida Kirmani, a feminist sociologist at the Lahore University of Management Sciences such posters got the most vitriolic responses because those challenged the intimate relations of power within the household. As per Sabahat Zakariya, a newspaper editor these kinds of slogans have unleashed a wave of [[Misogyny|masculine anxiety]]. Posters have since unleashed a social media storm.[29]

Social media hashtag[edit]

One of the hashtag at 2018 rally was #KhaanaKhudGaramKarLo (heat your own meal). Where as in 2019 it transformed to 'Ghar ka Kam Saba ka Kam' (Home-work is every-one's responsibility) slogan'

2019 March '#WhyIMarch' became the social media hashtag and slogan for the event, with many celebrities, human rights activists, and locals sharing their stories of why they marched #HumAurtein #auratmarch #AuratMarch2019 #JaggaDein

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Gozdecka, Dorota; Macduff, Anne (2019-01-08). Feminism, Postfeminism and Legal Theory: Beyond the Gendered Subject?. Routledge. ISBN 9781351040402.
  2. ^ Kirmani, Nida; Khan, Ayesha (2018-11-27). "Moving Beyond the Binary: Gender-based Activism in Pakistan". Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  3. ^ Sahar, Naila (2018-10-02). "Things She Could Never Have". South Asian Review. 39 (3–4): 420–422. doi:10.1080/02759527.2018.1518037. ISSN 0275-9527.
  4. ^ Staff, Images (2019-03-07). "The Aurat March challenges misogyny in our homes, workplaces and society, say organisers ahead of Women's Day". Images. Retrieved 2019-03-07.
  5. ^ a b "Here's all you need to know about Aurat March 2019". NC. 2019-02-28. Retrieved 2019-03-09.
  6. ^ a b c d Reporter, The Newspaper's Staff (2019-03-07). "Aurat March to highlight 'Sisterhood and Solidarity'". DAWN.COM. Retrieved 2019-03-07.
  7. ^ a b c Shah, Zuneera (2018-03-12). "Why the Aurat March is a revolutionary feat for Pakistan". DAWN.COM. Retrieved 2019-03-17.
  8. ^ a b Zahra-Malik, Mehreen (2019-03-15). "Pakistan torn as women's day march sparks wave of 'masculine anxiety'". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2019-03-16.
  9. ^ Toppa, Sabrina (2019-03-08). "Women take to the streets of Pakistan to rewrite their place in society". The Guardian. Retrieved 2019-03-17.
  10. ^ a b Ebrahim, Ammar (2019-04-06). "The 'womanspreading' placard that caused fury in Pakistan". Retrieved 2019-04-13.
  11. ^ "Pakistani women hold 'aurat march' for equality, gender justice". Retrieved 2019-03-16.
  12. ^ Saeed, Mehek. "Aurat March 2018: Freedom over fear". Retrieved 2019-03-17.
  13. ^ "A rising movement". 2019-03-18. Retrieved 2019-04-06.
  14. ^ Staff, Images (9 March 2018). "These posters from the Aurat March say everything you wish you could". Images.
  15. ^ Javaid, Maham, T. N. S. (11 March 2018). "Paratha rolls, not gender roles". TNS - The News on Sunday.
  16. ^ Javaid, Maham, T. N. S. (11 March 2018). "Paratha rolls, not gender roles". TNS - The News on Sunday.
  17. ^ "'Maa Behen Ek Ho Rahi Hy' And Other Aurat March Signs, Explained". Aurat Now. 9 March 2019.
  18. ^ Zehra, Ailia (9 March 2019). "How Aurat March Challenged The Deeply Ingrained Toxic Masculinity". Naya Daur.
  19. ^ "Aurat March organisers receive online death threats". DAWN.COM. 17 March 2019.
  20. ^ "Pakistan's Women Marched for Their Rights. Then the Backlash Came".
  21. ^ Khatri, Sadia (15 March 2019). "Should feminists claim Aurat March's 'vulgar' posters? Yes, absolutely". DAWN.COM.
  22. ^ a b c d e f g Mohydin, Rimmel (12 March 2019). "Let me womansplain the Aurat March to you". DAWN.COM.
  23. ^ "Pakistani women lash out at Shaan over his criticism on Aurat March". National Courier. 12 March 2019.
  24. ^ "Veena Malik Gets Called Out After Saying that Aurat March Was 'Humiliating for Women'". Lens. 13 March 2019.
  25. ^ "Kishwar Naheed rejects certain slogans of Aurat March, receives backlash". Daily Pakistan Global.
  26. ^ Khatri, Sadia (15 March 2019). "Should feminists claim Aurat March's 'vulgar' posters? Yes, absolutely". DAWN.COM.
  27. ^ Zahra-Malik, Mehreen (15 March 2019). "Pakistan torn as women's day march sparks wave of 'masculine anxiety'". The Guardian.
  28. ^ "KP Assembly demands action against 'shameless slogans' at Aurat March, passes resolution". Daily Pakistan Global.
  29. ^ Zahra-Malik, Mehreen (15 March 2019). "Pakistan torn as women's day march sparks wave of 'masculine anxiety'". The Guardian.