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Why support Aurat March?

"My body, my choice means that a woman is not bound to follow the dress code desired by someone or marry the person or select the career chosen by someone else. If she opts to do a job, no one can deny her right. If she denies marrying a certain person, no one can force her. This is what women in Aurat March demand"

She was a modern educated woman living in a metropolitan and fully aware of her rights but her rights were abused. She was raped and then brutally murdered. The issue was raised through mainstream and social media. Authorities then came into action. The case went to court, media reported it day by day and the murderer was given capital punishment. She was Noor Muqaddam, the daughter of a powerful and rich dad who was a former ambassador. The case was resolved soon as it had become highlighted. But there are thousands of other girls who are also being tortured, raped and even murdered but no one notices it. It has become our daily routine. Read newspaper for a year daily and you will not see a single day when news about the sexual assault of a woman in any part of the country has not been published.

March 8 marks International Women’s Day. In Pakistan, it was for the first time in 2018 when women in Islamabad gathered and arranged a rally for their rights and named it Aurat March. Whenever there is March, there are always rising tensions between those who are pro-Aurat March and those who are against it. The much-criticised slogan of the Aurat March is ‘mera jisam, meri marzi’ (my body, my choice). The rightists call it vulgarity.

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It is just common sense that every person has the right over his body. We cannot touch or stare at anybody without his or her permission. Just like we cannot allow anyone to slap us for no reason, women cannot allow anybody to stare at or touch them. And that’s what the slogan means.

I do not see any kind of vulgarity in it. If anybody sees vulgarity in ‘my body, my choice’, they need to get their head examined. To understand this slogan, you only need common sense.

A common argument against the Aurat March is that Islam has already given all kinds of rights to women. Although Islam gives rights to women, we the Muslims are not ready to give women their rights, their due share in the property, their right to education and many other rights. Our beloved Prophet, Peace Be Upon Him said, “Getting knowledge is obligatory on all Muslims”. But we forget that all Muslims include women too.

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My body, my choice means that a woman is not bound to follow the dress code desired by someone or marry the person or select the career chosen by someone else. If she opts to do a job, no one can deny her right. If she denies marrying a certain person, no one can force her. This is what women in Aurat March demand. They want freedom from forced and underage marriages. They want freedom from rape, torture, honour killing and acid attacks. They want the freedom to be at least considered a human.

Ironically, a teenage girl having some kind of romantic relationship is murdered, but her uncle or brother who rape her continue to live under the same roof. We can allow rape but not sex education. We can allow dowry but not share in the property.

Women for Aurat March want nothing but self-dependence, and respect. They want a share in the property. They want the right to education. In our villages, women are deprived of their basic rights. It is a common practice that a brother is allowed to study while a sister is not allowed.

We also need to know that marriage is not the certificate to rape without consent. We at least need to teach this society that a woman is a human too. We need to educate society that being harassed is not the fault of a woman.

People in the past used to bury their newborn girls. Although we do not bury them, they die every day. We bury daughters in the name of rituals. We bury them to save our crowns.

I do not know what it is like to be a woman and be harassed, but I do know how it feels when someone says that we, the male supporters of Aurat March, are supporting it because we are hunting for ladies. It’s utterly nonsensical, to say the least.

Aurat March primarily stands for an equal world for all genders. Aurat March is a march for Noor Muqaddam who was raped and then brutally murdered. It is a march for thousands of innocent Zainabs. Aurat March is for the rights of our women. It is for our daughters and sisters. It is a march for gender equality. We, men, should also support it as men of quality do not fear equality. So let us break the shackles and support the Aurat March wholeheartedly.

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