ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Who Is Afraid of Pakistan’s Aurat March?

Pakistan’s women are marching against patriarchy, but what is their destination and who is standing in their way? The Aurat March of 2019 faced severe backlash from both conservative as well as like-minded quarters, on account of some hard-hitting slogans and jabs raised against prevalent masculinist social norms. These have brought to the fore some paradoxes within feminist politics, which merit resolution for the sake of the emergence of stronger feminist politics in Pakistan.

The Aurat (Woman’s) March held across many cities of Pakistan on International Women’s Day, 2019 was larger, more intersectional, and more politically bold than its debut in 2018 (Nation 2018). While inspired by an international series of women’s marches and a global #MeToo movement, the impulse behind Pakistan’s Aurat March has been organic in equal measure. A younger generation of men and women in urban centres who had been connecting and politicking online for a few years, converged their anger and creative energies into this offline event and decided to reclaim the streets to march against patriarchy.

But, the severe backlash (Raza 2019) from conservative and even some like-minded quarters (Zahra-Malik 2019), in reaction to provocative slogans (Nizam 2019) and hard-hitting jabs at masculinist norms, were powerful reminders of a deeply entrenched religio-cultural patriarchal privilege that is jealously guarded in Pakistan. The adversarial reaction to these rallies has also revealed some troubling contradictions that have been brewing within the new activism itself. This article explores how the Aurat March brought into focus some pre-existing paradoxes within the feminist politics. These require urgent attention so as to prevent the fragmentation and the possible defeat of an emergent new politics of resistance in Pakistan.

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Updated On : 5th Oct, 2020

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