By Atiqa Shahid
Women are marching for their rights today on March 8 against the patriarchal structures of the society. We may know all that patriarchy is a social system that oppresses women from all walks of life. We can observe that feminists have been chanting the slogan ‘Personal is Political’ for more than four decades now. This one single slogan ‘Mera Jism Meri Marzi’ (my body, my choice) is not only personal for women but political too. That is also one of the reasons why it has shaken roots of the patriarchy.
All women’s bodies have been controlled by patriarchal structures across the world for ages. Recently, Greta Thunberg’s cartoon was published by a Canadian oil company where she is shown as being raped. Greta Thunberg is a 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden. In the recent past in Pakistan, there have been several registered cases where girls as young as eight years of age have been raped following brutal murders.
MERA JISM MERI MARZI
When a woman says “my body, my choice,” this not only means her personal preferences but her political positions too. One must admit that Pakistan is a patriarchal state, as all mainstream institutions are structurally patriarchal. For instance, if a woman refuses an arranged marriage or demands for a divorce, there are risks of her getting killed in the name of ‘honor.’ Because women’s bodies have always been entitled to relations like a mother, sister, daughter, and wife. The personal identities of women have never been celebrated.
Even in today’s modern world, gender stereotypes persist strongly in countries like Pakistan. The patriarchal societies define gender roles in a way that all power remains in the hands of men, as they (men) are receiving all kinds of financial compensation besides decision-making positions but women mostly are given unpaid care work. When a woman says ‘my body, my choice’, then she challenges these stereotypes and the fight begins. What to wear, where to sit, what to eat, what to study, when to get married, vote to whom, where to work, etc.
This one’s single slogan has shaken the walls of patriarchy but it is equally important to remember that every woman is protesting a hundred times every-day. On March 8, women are marching to not only fight for their rights but also marching in solidarity with those women who cannot come to the march. In the herstory, women have proved that women always stood up against the state for their rights and will rise no matter who and whatever will come in their way.
ALL TO JOIN MARCH
Everyone must remember that the iconic march of the women will happen today with full courage and enthusiasm. The Aurat March which is set to hit streets today in tandem with international women’s day, will include teachers, students, lawyers, civil society members, activists, journalists and other professionals, besides labourers, farmers, and slum-dwellers. In Lahore, the official poster of the march depicts farming women, whose voices says it is hoping to amplify.
I am really happy that many politicians and lawmakers are defending the right to peaceful protest in the face of visible opposition. I hope that notable names will also join the Aurat March in all major cities, including Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar, Quetta, and Multan. I am appreciating that Multan is also gearing up for a huge gathering today as this is the first women’s march in Southern Punjab, with a focus on brick kiln labourers who make up some of the poorest communities in the area. For now, let us all chant:
Jab tak aurat tang rahegi,
Jang rahegi, jang rahegi!
Atiqa Shahid, now based in Göteborg, Sweden, is a gender rights activist and organizer. She has almost eight years of working experience in human rights development and implementation, mainly in Pakistan. She can be reached at [email protected]; Twitter @AtiqaShahid