Aurat March – Why the Fuss?

Batool Mehdi breaks down exactly what it is that has so many up in arms.

It is incredibly telling of the average Pakistani mindset that the slogan ‘mera jism meri marzi‘ instantly conjures up images of ‘fahaashi’ or sexuality. But then again, this is a country where making babies is a favourite past time, yet any discussion on sex itself, is ‘haw-hai‘ taboo.

It makes sense then, that in a society like ours, Aurat March has ruffled sensitive, gender norms. Often, it seems that the truly inherent reason why the march has managed to get under the skin of so many, is not even supposedly the march or the protesters or their causes – but the idea itself, of a woman having the nerve, the sheer gall to have a voice at all.

To speak. To be seen. To be heard.

It has become so normative to silence women in this country, that a movement that is all about women speaking up, is bound to shock and horror.

And let’s break down this shock and horror, shall we? If we look at some of the controversy the Aurat March generates, it is plainly obvious that it stems from a collective consciousness that associates anything to do with speaking up at all as “too much”, especially if it is coming from women.

Because, honestly? It’s all very transparent, at the end of the day.

Mera Jism, Meri Marzi. My body, my choice.

Clearly, for those up in arms about this, calling it ‘ghaleez‘, the actual ‘ghalazat‘ is in their ‘soch.’ Where critics automatically equate this to apparently a desire on women’s part to suddenly walk around naked, they fail to grasp just how ridiculous it is that women even have to assert autonomy over their own bodies, when it should be a given.

In a country where still far too many women have absolutely no say in who they get married to, when they get married, how many children they have, ‘mera jism meri marzi‘ s about women being able to decide themselves if they want to enter into marriage, when they want to enter in to it, if they want children, and indeed, if they do, that they not be thought of as cattle, that is married off just to breed.

In a country where too many women still suffer or worse, die from child birth related complications, this cannot be more relevant.

In a country where a woman’s body is thought of as a mere reproductive vessel alone, it is more imperative than ever to consider the true implications behind ‘mera jism, meri marzi.’

Women are asking for their right of self determination over something as basic as their own bodies, for God’s sakes. She is more than a body. Her marzi, which comes from her heart, her mind, her soul – that is what defines her.

What should bother us is that women have to reiterate this at all, that they have choice over their own bodies. Not them saying it.

‘Lo baith gayi sahi se.’ See, now I’ve sat the right way.

Another one where critics will instantly associate images of sexuality. Because of course, a woman sitting on a motorcycle the correct way is a preposterous notion. No, indeed – she must continue sitting side saddle in a hark back to 19th century Victorian England, for who cares if her life is in constant danger from it? At least her legs are closed.

A woman. Sitting on a motorcycle. The way she is intended to sit on it. That is the source of controversy here. Wrap your head around this for a second.‘Apni Dick Pics Apnay Paas Rakho.’ Keep your pictures of your genitals to yourselves.

Unfortunately now women are subjected to men literally not being able to keep it in their pants on the streets as well. The increasing number of cases of women being harassed on the streets by men not being able to control their urges and actually fondling themselves, is on an alarming rise.

The irony here is unmistakable. That critics are offended not by the idea of men sending women unsolicited pictures of their genitals or whipping out said genitals on the streets at them, but at the apparent audacity of women to protest it at all – speaks volumes.

Let that sink in. Women should continue being ok with men doing this. That’s what someone means every time they are appalled at this slogan. That women ought to just shut up and let men carry on being animals.

‘The problems Aurat March espouses are for the elite. There are real problems out there.’

Sure. And that’s what the people marching are marching for!

This is a country where sexual abuse of children in schools, madrassahs, streets and homes is now so common that we are almost become disturbingly de-sensitized to it. Where women being raped or killed is such a routine headline now that we don’t even bat an eyelid. Where women are still hunted down like animals in the name of honour. But we turn the other way. Where women are still swatted away like flies for failing to prepare a meal on time or burnt forever by acid for rejecting a nakaam ashiq’s attention. But so what?

The truth is there are no elite problems here. The problems, all of them, across the board, are all real.

The distinction – demarcating one problem as more ‘problematic’ than the other – is frankly the bigger problem, which exists in the minds of so many.

And let’s say for a second you don’t believe a woman’s reproductive rights or her sense of outrage at being groped in public is enough to elicit a march. Fair play. Then march for what you believe are the ‘bigger issues.’ Surely women getting killed and raped are the bigger issues? March for what you believe in, but march! Sitting at home and on your Twitter keyboards harping on about there being ‘real problems’ out there to march for, is not enough. Go join the march and make those greater problems known.

It doesn’t take more than 5 minutes to go through the official charter of demands the Aurat March has announced. If one can let their biases go for a mere 5 minutes, maybe you’ll find a lot of your ‘bigger problems’ are already there, in what they march for.

Photo credit: AFP PHOTO / ASIF HASSAN

So what are you waiting for? Banao plan Sunday ko and go be the solution. Not the problem.