Women of Pakistan proudly celebrate Women’s Day each year. The country suffers from its fair share of problems when it comes to treatment of its female citizens
Every year on 8 March the world comes together to celebrate International Women’s Day. This is a day dedicated towards raising awareness about women’s ]struggle for] equality, celebrating women’s achievements in all areas of life and highlighting the issues they face all over the world.
The women of Pakistan proudly celebrate Women’s Day each year. The country suffers from its fair share of problems when it comes to treatment of its female citizens. Pakistan currently ranks the second lowest in the world for gender equality according to the Global Gender Gap Index. Violence against women and girls - rape, acid attacks, ‘honour’ killings, child marriages and domestic and sexual abuse - remains a serious problem. Pakistan has hardly made any progress since 2006.
According to the Human Rights Watch 2 percent of girls in Pakistan get married before the age of 18, out of which 3 percent are married before the age of 15. 93 percent of girls experience sexual harassment, out of which 70 percent experience sexual abuse by a family member. Literacy rates for girls are lower than for boys.
On Monday, March 8, the International Women’s Day was observed with public events in several Pakistani cities. Nearly a thousand people - women and men of all ages, transgenders and representatives of some religious minorities - became part of Lahore’s Aurat March. They walked from the Press Club to the PIA Building on Egerton Road. They had started reaching the Press Club at 2 pm. A stage was set up in front of the PIA Building. There were several performances highlighting the problems faced by and involving women and minorities. The demonstrators carried posters and banners and chanted slogans against gender discrimination, violence and misogyny.
There was ‘dirty laundry’ on display, each shirt being a relational word e.g. chacha, baba, brother to highlight sexual and domestic abuse experienced by women at the hands of their blood relatives. The exhibition was aimed at highlighting the problem in order to find solutions rather than forcing women and girls to stay quiet out of fear of getting and giving the family a bad name.
Most participants had a mask on. Several volunteers went around carrying and offering hand sanitisers. However, it appeared next to impossible to maintain a safe distance from the next person in the crowd.
The manifesto for this year’s Aurat March focused on healthcare for women. A demand was raised for an increase in the national budget for health. Proper healthcare facilitation was also demanded for marginalised groups including trans-genders and the differently abled. The manifesto referred to Article 38 of the constitution, which promises the provision of all basic necessities of life without discrimination. It asked that the healthcare budget be increased to 5 percent of the GDP in the 2021-2022 budget. The Aurat March also asked for rigorous training for medico-legal officers and a strict enforcement of the virginity tests. The Aurat March demanded equal healthcare opportunities for transgenders, victims of child marriage and forced conversions and for prisoners. The manifesto recognised climate change and the country’s environmental problems as contributing factors in the increasing health issues for female citizens.
The writer is a communications manager at a private company. She can be reached at email@example.com