Women In Pakistan Dared To March — And Didn’t Care What Men Thought


We were hundreds of women, marching on the streets of Karachi, Pakistan.

We shouted slogans. ‘”Aurat aiee, aurat aiee, tharki teri shaamath aiee!” (Women are here, harassers must fear!)

We raised our fists in the air, smiling, laughing.

We wore what we wanted to wear: burqas, jeans and designer shades, brightly embroidered skirts, the traditional tunic and baggy trousers called shalwar kameez.

Men gaped, shook their heads, filmed us from passing cars as we walked by, disrupting traffic.

We did not care what the men thought of us.

We were free to stand, walk, dance, with nobody to tell us to sit down, be quiet, be good.

It was the first time in my life that I saw women gathering in public, in strength, in numbers.

This was the Aurat (Urdu for “women”) March, the first of its kind in the conservative Muslim country of Pakistan. There were actually three marches — in Karachi, Lahore

and Islamabad – all held on March 8, International Women’s Day.

Word spread through Facebook and Twitter posts among the various networks of women involved in grassroots work — in education, health, microfinance, women’s shelters, workers’ rights.

Objectives were ambitious: a demand for the recognition of women’s rights and gender equality, and an end to the hideous scourge of gender violence, among other aims.

But the overriding intent was to raise the morale of Pakistani women. The constant drip of misogyny can turn life into a misery, where you are considered a lucky woman if you have a husband who doesn’t beat you. The Aurat March wanted to remind women that the bar doesn’t need to be set that low.


Before the march began, activists took to the stage and spoke of their struggles and triumphs. Veeru Kohli, a member of the Dalit community in the Thar Desert (low-caste Hindus known by the epithet of “untouchables”) related how she escaped a life of slave labor to become a political activist. Kainat Soomro, a victim of gang rape at 13 who is trying to take her rapists to court, described her as yet unsuccessful 11-year fight for justice. An activist from the Christian community excoriated the government for ignoring the scourge of forced conversions, where Muslim men kidnap minority women, force them to convert to Islam and marry them against their consent.

The March brought together women across class, ethnic, and religious lines. University students cheered on older feminist icons. Placards in English and Urdu read “Patriarchy is Fitna (sedition)”, “Kebab Rolls not Gender Roles”, “Woman is King” and “Stop Killing Women.” Children waved orange and yellow flags with the Aurat March logo, and 97-year-old folk singer Mai Dhai sang and banged enthusiastically on a dhol, the traditional Pakistani drum played at weddings, stirring women and men to dance together in a spirit of festivity and celebration.

For the first time, I felt as though the invisible ties that held me back, those hundreds of written and unwritten rules about Pakistani women’s behavior in public, had been cut through with a blowtorch.

A small group of trans women watched from the edges, nervous and scared, but they soon joined in, along with the procession of nuns bearing giant crosses and the Dalit women from the desert. We marched behind women in red, members of the working women’s union, bussed in from Hyderabad. We marched, hair bare or covered, to the beat of the drums and the pounding of our hearts.

We were accompanied by women on motorcycles, girls on pink bikes. Tens of men and boys joined us. We walked next to women wearing masks portraying the face of Qandeel Baloch, the social media star who was murdered by her brother two years ago because he could not stand her bold, risqué public persona. They bore a symbolic coffin containing a body shrouded in white, calling it “patriarchy’s funeral.”

It’s been three decades since members of the Women’s Action Forum were beaten on the streets for protesting the Islamization laws of dictator General Zia in the early 1980s. Pakistani women in 2018 still find themselves trampled under decades of discrimination and oppression. But the Aurat March has motivated them to demand equality and justice. The Aurat March has uncovered an undeniable truth: The revolution has arrived in Pakistan — and it is a women’s revolution.

Source: Bina Shah

Bina Shah is a writer living in Karachi, Pakistan. Her forthcoming novel, Before She Sleeps, a feminist dystopian story about women’s lives in a future Middle Eastern society, will be published in August 2018. She tweets @binashah


Sanity and suicide


Aziz Ali Dad

The society of Gilgit-Baltistan is on the cusp of change. It is under the influence of various forces, which are both internal and external, and a complex interplay of continuity and change. The result is the formation of new ways of seeing things, lifestyle and changes in values and the emergence of new notions of the self, sense and sensibilities.

In this process, the youth of Gilgit have become both beneficiaries and victims of modernity. One of the benefits of change is that some regions of Gilgit have achieved a phenomenal increase in literacy. However, the seamy side of change tends to appear if we examine the increasing trend of suicide in various parts of the region.

During May 2017, 10 cases of suicides in the Ghizer district were recorded by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan’s Gilgit-Baltistan Chapter. In all these cases, the victims were young. There is a general perception that the suicide rate is high in Ghizer Valley while the rest of the region is immune to it. Various cases of suicide have surfaced in all areas of the Gilgit-Baltistan. However, a majority of these cases are not reported. The complete blackout of reports related to suicide and honour killing clearly shows that some parts of Gilgit-Baltistan are still in the grips of a tribal and patriarchal ethos where anything related to women is brushed under the carpet to keep the veneer of men’s honour intact from the onslaught of change brought about by modernisation.

Despite the stranglehold of the patriarchal mind on every sphere of life, suicide cases are a sign of the failure of cultural, religious, social and institutional arrangements in Gilgit. To probe the underlying causes of suicide, it is indispensable to take stock of the situation by situating the individual within the society of Gilgit and identify the factors that form his or her existential reality. It is this lifeworld that begets a mind that decides whether to live or commit suicide.

An important factor in Gilgit is the rapid transformation in every sphere of life.

Unlike the previous generation, the new generation of Gilgit is continuously exposed to novel situations and experiences because of social transformation. Therefore, the youth seek to explore other dimensions of life for self-actualisation. However, the traditional mindset and leadership are still stuck in the traditional worldview. They insist on sticking to the values, institutional structures and ideals that do not understand the emerging reality in the communication age. In other words, the aspirations and ideals of youth exceed the available capacities of social and religious institutions and values. As a result, a new sense of alienation has settled into the hearts and minds of the youth.

When a person feels absolute alienation from their family, religion, social institutions and values, he or she experiences crisis of meaning and metaphysical pathos. As a result, he or she opts for suicide. So, the act of suicide can be seen as an assertion of one’s identity against the collective ethos of society.

Unfortunately, the remedies suggested to tackle the increasing cases of suicide in Gilgit are a nonstarter. This is because the very causes are presented as a panacea for the young mind that suffers from it and wants to transcend the suffocating culture and society. For example, a section of society thinks that suicide cases are occurring because of the weaning away of the youth from religion. Proponents of this arguments claim that religion provides social cohesion whereby the individual relates to the collective identity and achieves what is called existential security of the self. This argument has affinity with the theory propounded by Emile Durkheim in his landmark book ‘Suicide’ where he propounds the view that suicide is prevalent among groups with weak forms of social control and cohesion.

However, the reality is that suicide in Gilgit is the result of a closely-knit society where the youth feels suffocated. If individuals aspire to transcend kinship-based solidarities or the prevalent ethos and ideals, they invite invisible nooses around their necks to strangle themselves. Interestingly, Durkheim finds fewer incidents of suicide among women. On the contrary, the suicide rate among women is high in parts of Gilgit.

One of the major challenges during the period of rapid transition is the disappearance of old ideals and the absence of new ideals in society of Gilgit. That is why society and its members operate within an ideological vacuum. Such a society is bound to feel the existential hole in its core and a lose sense of direction as it does not have an idea of going forward, backward, upward and downward.

With the growing exposure to global ideas, lifestyle and ideals, the youth of Gilgit begin to aspire to a lifestyle which their society does not provide spaces and opportunities for. Instead of heeding to the aspiration of the youth, the ideological guardians of society not only repress dreams but also stifle any form of transcendence to fit them in received ideals and realities. Consequently, the possibilities of diverse dimensions are reduced to create a one-dimensional self. R D Laing, in his book ‘The Divided Self’, writes: “Among one-dimensional men, it is not surprising that someone with an insistent experience of other dimensions, that he cannot entirely deny or forget, will run the risk either of being destroyed by the others, or of betraying what he knows”.

Unfortunately, the intelligentsia of Gilgit-Baltistan conjures up the same ideals of society, which are meant to create a one-dimensional self. This is done through an array of structures, which are institutional, religious and cultural. Amid this arrangement, the strangulated self finds no space and new groups with whom an individual can find existential affinity. In the end, the individual takes refuge in death by committing suicide.

Jan Ali, a populist Shina poet, pithily sums up the suffocating environment of Gilgit and its role in generating a death wish in the individual in the couplet when he exclaims” “Aday bay bayokijo meerok ga mishti, Gileet ga phat kon nayok gi mishti (Instead of leading such life, it is better to either commit suicide, or vanish from Gilgit)”

The aspirations and dreams of the youth in Gilgit are either destroyed by the existing order of things, or deviated from to conform to the uni-dimensional idea of the self dictated by society. Hence, we witness the suppression of the individual by society to keep the sanity of the collective whole intact. It is to members of such society that Carl Jung said: “Show me a sane man and I will cure him for you”. Gilgit’s society is in denial of the insanity of its social, cultural, religious and institutional structures. Instead of curing its version of collective sanity, society blames the individual agency of insanity for suicide.

From the above discussion, it can be concluded that the self of the youth in Gilgit is walking on a tight rope over the abyss. It is a dangerous walk as looking backward may distract the person from what is ahead and consign him or her to the pits of abyss. In addition, people cannot make an abode of the self in a precious place. All they need is to leave the traditions behind and cross over the present for the sake of their dreams and aspirations.

Only by getting rid of approaches that either see things in terms of pre-modern social arrangements or a reengagement with lost certainties of culture and religion and rejecting the status quo, can we create a new self in Gilgit. This will open the doors to new dreams and ecstasies for the self to celebrate. It will help the individual get rid of the normalcy imposed by society and jettison the false realities inculcated in the individual by culture, society, state and religion.

R D Laing’s observation is quite relevant to Gilgit, especially when he wrote: “Thus I would wish to emphasize that our ‘normal’ ‘adjusted’ state is too often the abdication of ecstasy, the betrayal of our true potentialities, that many of us are only too successful in acquiring a false self to adapt to false realities”.

The writer is a freelance columnist based in Gilgit. Email: azizalidad@gmail.com

Source: Pamir Times

Girl Raped For 43,200 times

An innocent girl was forced into human trafficking industry of Mexico. Now she speaks about her agony and the brutal acts she had to go through.

Meet the brave girl, Karla Jacinto (23). She believes that she has been raped for almost 43,200 times. She was forced to have sex with at least 30 men every day continuously for four years, CNN reports.

After getting out of that hell, she shared the story of her survival via press conferences, public events etc. She also spoke to the Pope Francis at the Vatican and urged to the US Congress to prevent other young girls who might be dragged away from their loved ones.


Ms. Karla Jacinto.

A 22-year-old trafficker targetted Karla when she was just 12. He took her away from her family in Tenancingo. Tenancingo, Mexico, widely considered as the sex trafficking capital of the world and is the single largest source of sex slaves sent to the US, according to the US State Department. In an interview with CNN, Karla told that she stayed with her trafficker for three months, after which she was transported to Guadalajara (One of the nation’s largest cities) before being dragged into prostitution. She said, “I started at 10 am and finished at midnight. Some men would laugh at me because I was crying. I had to close my eyes so that that I wouldn’t see what they were doing to me so that I wouldn’t feel anything.”


Story Teller,

Manjiri Ghatge





The Hungry Eyes

111Every day, every hour, every second women are being harassed by men in this society. There are many types of Harassment but the most common and irritating one is STARING. This shameful act is being normalized by our society in the form of patriarchal freedom. It is clear enough to understand the root cause of this rising issue, which is Patriarchal society. This male dominant society has introduced a culture of Gender based discrimination. Moreover, women are considered as subordinates of men and the power only belongs to men. This discriminated culture has distributed the rights of freedom inequitably.


Thus, men are enjoying extra freedom than women. Unfortunately, the misuse of the freedom is considered as an honor of a brave man. If a man stares women, he is considered as a daring man. If a boy is flirting a girl, he is considered to be very smart and it is an honor for him. If a man is enjoying multiple relationships, he is considered very cleaver. These all boost up the confidence of man to cross the limits. Being a girl, I am experiencing this harassment on daily basis. It is really difficult for me and other women to even cross a street alone or with anyone. These hungry eyes are ready to stop our way, to catch and to crush our dignity, our respect, our confidence, and our privacy.

Is this a social issue or psychological disorder/ perversion?

How this harassment can be minimized?

I am doing a survey on this harassment. Let’s be the part of this issue and sort it out together.

Both males and females can fill this survey form and add your contribution to eliminate one of the social issues.

To fill the Survey form please clicks here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1__XaIr52T-ntGahzGCCVVROXvUnvrUXjQTN4r2X8aeA/edit

First Step Towards “Students Against Sexual Violence”

imagesThe Harmony Theater starts the first step of

its campaign “Students Against Rap” with a

bilingual speech contest on the topics

related to sexual violence. the last date for

registrations is 11th September, 2015.

It has been observed that many young students showed interest in this contest,

therefore the management of Harmony Theater decided to organize auditions for

the selection of participants on 13th of September, 2015. Top 6 participants (3 for

English speech, 3 for Urdu speech) will be selected for the final contest which will

held on 20th September, 2015. Furthermore, winners of both English and Urdu

speech will receive cash prizes, shields and certificates.

Note: All participants of auditions will also receive participation certificate on the

last day of contest. 

Harmony Theater to present a campaign


“Harmony Theater Group” to present a campaign  “Students Against Rape”. The Theater group is going to arrange Series of seminars, documentaries, plays etc for awareness regarding sexual & gender-based violence issues in  the society.

So, the first part of the series will be a Speech Contest on “Preponderance of Sexual Abuse”.

Be the part of Awareness!

Unfinished Domestic Violence in Pakistan

Evidence shows most men make excuses, calling temporary anger and verbal abuse normal while shrugging off the seriousness of financial control as punishment

In the shadows behind the curtains,in the murky depths of despair and in the black of night, domestic violence continues to ruin lives in Pakistan.Inside the disturbed minds of those who commit these crimes they are not desperate to escape. Those who have the power to prevent and/or punish this violence through religion, law or custom openly or tacitly approve it. For every high-profile case, more victims die shrouded in silence and countless others endure the daily torture of not knowing when it will happen again. In the emptiness of abuse all alone, frozen in fear, victims stand in the cold dark alleys of torture and violence for the sake of their lives and children. The question is: when will they feel safe?
Far too often we as spectators fail to see it. Even worse, we turn a blind eye. It is time to shine a light on domestic violence.This remains a national tragedy for a country that purports to be civilised, tolerant and safe, or at least what politicians and leaders of the country claim to be the case.By placing domestic violence atop the national agenda they can expose and erase the dark underside of home life while helping victims find the warmth and optimism they deserve. But change will require recognition of the extent of the damage by those who behave as though it is still the dark ages.

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Gender-based violence has recently been emerging as a pervasive national issue. Existing statistics suggests that profound physical and psychological sequelae are endemic following intimate partner violence. The presentation of domestic violence in our country is culture specific. A new lexicon, prompted by the expansion of psychological analysis, describes particular threats to women, including dowry deaths, honour murder and disproportional exposure to HIV/AIDS as well as globally generic perils including abuse, battering, marital rape and murder.
The relevant statistics are truly alarming. According to the statistics of violence against women contained in a report to parliament by the ministry of law, justice and human rights, there were 860 ‘honour’ killings (mostly women), 481 incidents of domestic violence, 90 cases of acid burning, 344 cases of rape/gang rape and 268 incidents of sexual assault/harassment. That is just the official toll. Less than half of abuse is reported.
These are mothers, daughters, sisters and wives; these are the people who live next to you. These are real people and they are horrifying numbers. Behind the veneer of social respectability across all demographics, women are suffering from physical, psychological, manipulative and controlling behaviour by dangerous, sick men. It emanates from a mind-set that blames the victim and tolerates disrespect for those who are of another gender, background, lifestyle or are simply powerless. It does not stop there; children are even being assaulted, traumatised and used as weapons in the middle of this social pathology. Change will require challenging the culture of saying nothing. Change will mean recasting many of the myths about what a significant minority of men regard as being mard (macho): rugged,powerful, dominant and the breadwinner, able to apply double standards to being faithful, fearless and allowed to embrace loss of control and physical violence as a birth right.

When interviewed, most women who had been abused felt it was a private matter or feared retribution. Most live in fear of being tracked down by their abuser. True, more women today are economically independent and most know there are services out there to help if partners become abusive but only few take the risk of speaking out and refuse to be demeaned. But fewer still make the flight to safety or use the support of courts and the police to remain in their own homes. There must be more protection of whistle-blowers who lift the veil of secrecy. For how long will the fear of social ostracism or economic desolation dissuade women in particular not to report their dire situations?
While still fragmentary, data reveals strengthening associations between domestic violence and mental health. Depression, stress-related syndromes, anxiety, drug dependency and suicide are consequences observed in theshort-term context of violence in women’s lives. Sadly, though, many women develop long-term mental illnesses, often driven by a husband’s jealousy linked to low self-esteem. They try to destroy the confidence of a victim to the point where she feels like a prisoner dependent on the captor.In these cases, early signs of abuse are even harder to identify. The process can be so insidious that sometimes women are murdered without having endured a single act of physical violence up to that point.Change will require the courage of society to stop allowing men to make excuses along the lines of“it will not happen again; they were stressed and now they are sorry”. No, they are committing criminal acts and they should be punished.
Evidence shows most men make excuses, calling temporary anger and verbal abuse normal while shrugging off the seriousness of financial control as punishment. Women in our society, particularly from poor families, are prone to regard domestic violence and abusive behaviour by husbands as the norm too. Many men have grown up in families that functioned peacefully yet many remain deeply affected.The spread of cyber bullying and trolling on social media only makes the task harder when it comes to showing young boys, who soon grow into men, that disagreements can be settled peacefully and personality clashes need not become abusive. This intergenerational problem remains, despite some changed attitudes on the role of aggression in marital conflicts. The fact is that the children of families that endured domestic violence are more likely to offend as adults.Society needs to tackle these long grained infected cultural legacies and domestic abuse because there is a common link: disrespectful attitudes towards women.
There are some glimmers of hope.Emerging social, legal, medical and educational strategies, often culture specific, can offer novel local models to promote social change, beginning with raising the status of women. The ubiquity, gravity and variability of domestic violence across the culture compel that additional efforts should be made by parliamentarians and leaders of the country to promote the recognition, intervention and prevention of domestic violence that are both locally specific and nationally instructive.
There is a long way to go before the abuse and the killing are wiped out. That is why it is critical that advocates such as civil society champions and local governments work even harder with mental health professionals to find better domestic violence strategies.Can we count on our policy makers to do just that?

Dr Fawad Kaiser

March 09, 2015