Beating of male and female students by Islami Jamiat Tulaba (IJT) for playing cricket together at Karachi University was condemned at a public dialogue on ‘Women and Public Space in Pakistan’ held on Monday.
Participants of the public dialogue called for an end to gender-based apartheid on the streets in Pakistan and greater access to public space for men and women of all classes and social groups.
The discussion was jointly organised by the Awami Workers Party and feminist collective ‘Girls at Dhabas’ on Monday and was attended by dozens of women, men, activists, political workers, journalists and ‘katchiabadi’ residents from Islamabad.
The dialogue was moderated by AWP Islamabad Youth Secretary Amna Mawaz, who said that the event was organised in order to highlight and debate an issue that was critical to any attempt at creating a progressive future for this society. She welcomed Girls at Dhabas (GaD) founder Sadia Khatri and said it was important that these sorts of discussions on patriarchy and feminism took place across the country.
Initiating the discussion, GaD founder Sadia Khatri said that even though women formed the majority of Pakistani society, one could barely see them on the country’s streets. She said that there were many other conservative societies around the country yet nowhere was the absence of women as widespread.
Sadia said that this widespread exclusion from public spaces also had immense consequences for women’s well-being at large, including their social and economic empowerment. She said that it was the responsibility of privileged women had the access to the requisite mobility and resources to challenge this gender-based exclusion.
Addressing the gathering, Alia Amirali of the AWP lauded the Girls at Dhabas’ initiative as something that was critically needed in present-day Pakistan. She said that the AWP stood for a society where men and women were fundamentally equal in all
respects and stressed on the necessity of political struggle to achieve this objective. She said that it was necessary that the struggle for class and gender emancipation took place alongside each other, as neither was possible without the other. She said that the women’s movement in Pakistan needed to take into account the concerns of working class women in order for the struggle to gain strength.
Several other activists spoke at the meeting to present their views on gender equality and offer suggestions for strategising on this issue.