Women march for their rights across Pakistan’s cities during the Aurat March.

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Marches throughout numerous cities in Pakistan on Tuesday, widely referred to as the Aurat March, when women raised their voices to demand equal rights and end systemic discrimination.

The inaugural Aurat March in Pakistan took place in Karachi on March 8, 2018. The following year, it was expanded to more cities, including Lahore, Multan, Faisalabad, Larkana, and Hyderabad. This year’s march marked the march’s fifth anniversary.

The march is divided into Multan, Lahore, and Karachi chapters. The parade began at 1 p.m. from Multan’s Nawan Shehar Chowk, 2 p.m. from Lahore Press Club, and 3 p.m. from Karachi’s Jinnah Park, with demonstrations in other cities.

A slightly different event called the Aurat Azadi March is organized in Islamabad, but it began earlier this year with a gathering at the capital’s F9 Park on March 6. This development prompted young activists across the city to fill the Aurat Azadi March’s void by organizing an entirely new Aurat March Islamabad, which began at 1 pm from the Islamabad Press Club

Demands

Each chapter of the Aurat March has its manifesto, with Karachi emphasizing wages, security, and peace; Lahore emphasizing rethinking justice; Multan emphasizing redesigning the education system; and Islamabad emphasizing justice, security, and independence.

The Karachi chapter’s three main demands are as follows: a living wage based on access to safe housing, quality education, and affordable healthcare for workers and their families; social security and protection for all women and transgender people through monthly stipends; and prioritizing child welfare by ending child labor, human trafficking, and bonded labor.

Meanwhile, the Lahore chapter developed its manifesto following intensive research and consultations with key communities, including families affected by enforced disappearances, domestic workers, sexual abuse survivors, and religious minorities.

It necessitates more comprehensive reforms to transform society, provide psychosocial support to survivors of violence, and rehabilitate perpetrators. Additionally, the Lahore chapter calls for systemic improvements that prevent patriarchal violence over quick fixes like capital penalty and chemical castration.

The build-up to this year’s Aurat March was laden with controversy. Last month, Religious Affairs Minister Noorul Haq Qadri wrote to Prime Minister Imran Khan requesting that anti-Islamic slogans be avoided on International Women’s Day.

He had also proposed celebrating International Hijab Day on March 8 instead of Aurat March to demonstrate unity with Muslim women worldwide.

The letter sparked outrage on social media from various sources, including lawmakers, prompting the minister to issue a statement later clarifying his intentions.

Other religious parties, including the Islamabad chapter of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl and Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan, later joined the opposition to this year’s Aurat March.

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