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Why Karachi women march other than to just celebrate Women’s Day?

KARACHI: As women, and many men alongside, took to roads on Monday to mark International Women’s Day in Pakistan, some feared being seen on camera for what it might entail for them: roast from peer groups, comprising men mostly, and ridicule from families that think women wear ‘skimpy dresses’ and flaunt ‘obnoxious’ placards in those marches.

One amongst such men, whom the women would call their allies in their bid to claim rights, wore a shirt that read, “Har ghar se feminist niklega tum kitny feminist marogy [A feminist will turn up from every house and you cannot eliminate them]“, but he was wary of giving out his name or allowing to take a photo as he feared his peers might not like him attending the march.

“Har ghar se feminist niklega tum kitny feminist marogy [A feminist will turn up from every house and you cannot eliminate them]” reads the merch of one man who chooses to be anonymous to avoid ridicule.
“What sort of Azadi (freedom) do they want, and from whom really?” People on social media are found asking as many of them outrightly disregard any wrongdoing to women, while some were ‘lenient’ enough to suggest to them how to plead the end of exploitation from society if there’s any.

“If you really want your rights then ask for them properly and do not decay our values.”

Many social media platform users, both pre- and post-event, objected to the march, with arguments typically fraught with strawman approach, as if people in them violate some sacred and laid down rules to go by; and thus instead of heeding what they have to say or finding a flaw with that to genuinely have a discourse, they think, to begin with, that this gathering is “unwarranted” and only serves some “clandestine agenda”.

But while the male-dominated society claims all’s well and “nothing calls for women’s rights march”, because it’s only some elements trying to “sabotage our traditions and are being paid to do so”, those present in the march have each different story to tell.

One such marcher was Sabrina Rose Bhatti who feels women cannot so much as simply walk on the roads without fearing some creeps who would often show up out of nowhere and ogle them.

“I have to await my ride-hailing service and it is seldom the case that I don’t encounter oglers and creeps but one such event still makes me shudder,” she shared, noting that eve-teasing and cat-calling – uncalled for and unwelcome comments hurled on women as they pass-by- are so normal and desensitizing they don’t feel wrong to people anymore.

I was once crowded about by ten people at a bus stop and I didn’t know what would they do as they kept closing in and staring at me, she recollected as the experience crept up on her again.

On the right Sabrina wields a placard that reads “creeps just appear as I am walking along the way”, and on the left, her sister, holds the placard reading, “Don’t confine your daughters inside houses but teach your sons to be better humans”.

If there were one or two perverts in a public space, I’d have found in me the courage to square up to them but “with an army of creeps inching closer, I simply froze”.

It is not limited to street harassment or eve-teasing alone, and other many appalling treatments meted out to women being the weaker sex, but things are much intense and complicated than they seem at the outset and stems generally from the erasure and evasion of women’s footprints from ledgers and accounts as if they are not equal citizens of Pakistan.

A university student claims women are not just an addition and a mere aesthetic touch of otherwise complete world but insists they essentially comprise about 50pc of the whole world. Her placard reads a line from famous couplets but strikes through a portion of it which she thinks is an objectification that reduces women to colours and not as humans and integral parts of the world.

“Only 29 percent of women in Pakistan have a bank account, among the lowest in the world,” admitted Reza Baqir, the governor of Pakistan’s central bank as he chaired earlier today International Women’s Day session that vowed to increase women’s role in Pakistan’s financial sphere.

He lamented that this “disparity severely impedes Pakistan’s national economic development”.

The plethora of posts and commentaries will continue but marchers demand their woes are heeded and their appearances are not objected to unwarranted opinions and whataboutism.

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