When we were little, the month of March was synonymous with one event only: Pakistan Day, which falls on the 23rd. Like many of my compatriots, our wait of the day has little to do with what is written in the Pakistan resolution and more to do with the fact that we’ll get an off from school or work.
Since the past 3 years, March has gotten an altogether different kind of synonymy, especially if you’re a Pakistani. It’s called the Aurat March, or the Women’s March. It’s held on 8th March, which is the International Day of Women as well. But I can say, with complete certainty that our women, let alone men, didn’t know that there was a Women’s Day as well.
That’s the impact of the Aurat March that I’m talking about. It’s a movement that has gotten women to wake up and realize that the oppression against them isn’t their fault, and neither is it their birthright. Because, to be honest, in Pakistan even oppression is handed down from generation to generation. So much for nepotism.
Women would teach their daughters how to be a good wife, how to sit properly, how to keep their mouth shut in front of their mother-in-law, how to cook good food to keep the husband satiated, and how to receive the lifelong torrent of abuse against them with a smile and gratitude. These daughters would go on to become mothers and impart the same ‘values’ into their daughters.
How ironic is it that the same mother who teaches her daughter how to endure abuse doesn’t teach her son not to stare at girls, not to pinch or bully them in school, not to catcall or grope them in public places, not to force them to do things they don’t agree to, and not to disrespect women in general? Such mothers treat their sons like royalty (‘Mera raaja beta’) while the daughter is taught to cook, clean and wash from a tender age.
This is why women to march. Hence, Aurat March. As a Pakistani male, I believe it’s the right of the oppressed to march and protest, but a majority of my fellow men would disagree with me. They’d even call me a feminist (as if it’s an abusive word), or label me as ‘runmureed’ (a person who is easily dominated by or obeys his partner).
What problem do men have with thousands of women marching for their rights and for equality and consideration at home, in public and in workplaces as well? Well, obviously, the oppressor is always instigated whenever the oppressed fight back. It’s human nature, and that’s how the world works.
However, the men of my country take this as an opportunity to highlight all the things a man does for his family, for his wife, for his sister, for his country and whatnot. In essence, the very men who call out women who march are those who can’t live without women. They won’t be able to drink water, wash their clothes, eat three times a day, clean their shoes, and do all of the tasks that they’ve entrusted to the women in their homes.
Men call out the women who march and protest for being ‘behaya’ (indecent) and for propagating western ideologies, where women are allowed to live in with their boyfriends, have children before marriage, roam around naked, do whatever they please, and everything else that men have seen in the movies or their local cleric has told them.
What men fail to see is that women are not asking for the right to parade naked or move in with their boyfriend. They’re asking for the right to go out in their street without being ogled, catcalled, groped or worse, kidnapped and molested. They’re asking for the right to travel in public transport without being stared at or touched inappropriately. They’re asking for the right to receive equal pay to men, without having to dole out ‘favors’ or warming up to their bosses.
They’re asking not to be beaten, whipped, bruised, and burnt when they can’t make a ‘gol roti’ (round flatbread) or burn it a little because Pappu or Munna was about to stick his hand inside a socket. They’re asking not to be lashed out at by their father or brother if a photo on Facebook shows them standing with a guy (a group photo that had more girls in it than guys). They’re asking not to be thrown into the trash or the well or sold when they’re born, just because they have two copies of the X chromosome.
They march for those who lost their lives to oppression, patriarchy, molestation, paedophilia, and all of the evils that target women. They march for the 2-month old baby who was molested after being stolen from the hospital. They march for the 80-year old frail lady who was assaulted in her own home. They march for the deceased 15-year old whose body was dug up and violated.
They march for who can’t.
So, the next time you think about condemning women who march, take out some time to think if your wife, girlfriend, sister, daughter, or any other women you know, falls in any one of the scenarios I’ve described above. I can tell, with utmost certainty, that nearly all of them will, and you wouldn’t even know about it.
So, yes. I am a Pakistani male and I fully support the Aurat March. Jinnah said, “No nation can rise to the height of glory unless your women are side by side with you. We are victims of evil customs. It is a crime against humanity that our women are shut up within the four walls of the houses as prisoners. There is no sanction anywhere for the deplorable condition in which our women have to live.” That’s really something, coming from the founder of our great nation.
In a nutshell: let them march. March with them. But most importantly, do something so that they don’t have to march ever again.