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Tuesday July 16, 2024

Lahore authorities ban Aurat March

Authorities cite "controversial cards and banners" and security concerns as reasons behind their decision

By AFP
March 04, 2023
Aurat March protesters hold placards as they gather to mark International Womens Day in Islamabad on March 8, 2022. — AFP
Aurat March protesters hold placards as they gather to mark International Women's Day in Islamabad on March 8, 2022. — AFP

LAHORE: Authorities in Lahore have refused permission for a rally (Aurat March) to mark International Women's Day, which regularly meets a fierce backlash.

Marches have been held in major cities all over Pakistan since 2018 to bring attention to women's rights.

Local authorities cited the "controversial cards and banners" commonly displayed by participants in the march and security concerns as reasons behind the decision, which were laid out in a notification to march organisers late Friday.

Counter-protests dubbed "haya (modesty)" marches are commonly staged by religious groups to call for the preservation of Islamic values.

"It's a violation of our rights. This raises questions about the state's ability to manage the right to freedom of assembly for both groups," Hiba Akbar, an organiser for Aurat March Lahore, told AFP.

Lahore authorities have allowed this year's Haya March to be held despite the ban on the Aurat March.

Organisers of the Aurat March in Pakistan have frequently had to resort to legal action to counter attempts to ban it.

The Aurat March rallies have courted controversy because of banners and placards waved by participants that raise subjects such as divorce, sexual harassment and menstruation.

Organisers and participants have been accused of promoting Western, liberal values and disrespecting religious and cultural sensitivities.

Rights group Amnesty International said the decision "amounts to an unlawful and unnecessary restriction of the right to assembly".

Islamabad authorities, citing security concerns, have relegated the Aurat March to a city park where a woman was gang raped in February.

"We are a feminist movement, we will not be in parks but rather on the streets," a statement by march organisers there said.