graduate of Gender and Cultural Studies from the University of Sydney with a distinction.
Her research focuses on media, gender and culture in South
Asian and Muslim countries. Currently, she is working as a Social Media Programme
Coordinator and Research Fellow with Women Living Under Muslim Laws.
Around the world and throughout history, social movements have played a huge role in achieving justice and emancipation on a variety of issues. When it comes to women’s rights, we often associate the fight for equality as an idea bred and practiced exclusively in western and English-speaking countries. This might be due to a variety of reasons. To begin with, the literature on social and feminist movements is predominantly white. Secondly, colonialism can be blamed for affecting the socio-cultural ethos of the Global South and that has, in fact, led to various disruptions and human rights crisis within the region.
Feminist social movements starting from the suffragette movements to the current digital activism in the form of the #MeToo movement have had a transnational impact. These movements might originate in one part of the world, but it is not long before it reaches different regions around the globe. These movements are then localised and made indigenous by feminists who use them to address issues affecting them in their respective societies. One such movement is the Aurat March in Pakistan.
The word aurat means woman/women in Urdu language and therefore, the term Aurat March literally translated to women’s march. This movement first took place on March 8th, 2018 on the occasion of the International Women’s Day and since then, takes place every year on the same day.
The word aurat means woman/women in Urdu language and therefore, the term Aurat March literally translated to women’s march. This movement first took place on March 8th, 2018 on the occasion of the International Women’s Day and since then, takes place every year on the same day. The indigenous movement which is rooted in grassroot activism and public demonstrations demands social, political and economic emancipation and equality of women and all marginalised groups including gender, ethnic and religious minorities.
Since the movement started in 2018, it has received massive backlash from the more fundamentalist and extremist fractions of the Pakistani society. The banners and slogans from the Aurat March became the main topic of discussion on social media. The banners which had taglines like: “my body, my choice”, “heat your own food” etc. challenged patriarchal gender roles and status quo. This is why the march became popular and divisive in no time and ideas regarding religion, social values, cultural norms and national interest made their way into the debate around the Aurat March.
The last Aurat March that took place in March 2021 was more controversial then ever. And it received extreme reactions from the more conservative groups in the Pakistani society. Organisers of the Aurat March have faced physical, psychological, structural and cultural forms of violence. Yet, these women (and some men) are determined to challenge the regressive and oppressive state of affairs in the country as the movement becomes bolder, bigger and more intersectional with every passing year.