Sixth edition of Aurat March to be held at Karachi’s Burns Garden on Sunday

KARACHI: Unlike other parts of the country, the sixth edition of Aurat March will be held on March 12 in Karachi at Burns Gardens, organisers announced on Wednesday.

According to Hum Aurtein, the organisers of the march, the reason for holding it later than usual, and not on International Women’s Day, was to avoid inconveniencing those who work as daily wage earner.

Speaking at a packed-to-capacity press conference at the Karachi Press Club on Wednesday, classical dancer, social activist and one of the organisers Sheema Kermani said that they didn’t want to hurt anyone’s income by holding the event on a weekday.

“Holding the Aurat March on a Sunday is better for working class communities as they won’t have to miss out on a day of wages,” she said.

Pastor Ghazala Shafique spoke about the various reasons that bring people together at the Aurat March. She also spoke about forced conversions.

“It is a crime,” she said. “The girls said to convert to Islam to get married to Muslim husbands need to be mentally mature before taking such a step and the law enforcement agencies need to be sensitised about this matter. The state must ensure the safety of our daughters,” she said.

Rita, the mother of young teenager Arzoo who was married by her 45-year-old neighbour, also appealed to the government to look into the matter of forced conversion of little girls.

Najma Maheshwar, a worker representing the Hindu community, said that the Hindu community in Sindh have been living here since even before the creation of Pakistan. “And after the partition, we remained living here and accepted the creation of Pakistan wholeheartedly. Pakistan should also accept us,” she said.

She added that most people from her community were uneducated due to which they have to do hard labour. “We used to get Rs500 as our daily wage 10 years ago. And today it is the same despite inflation,” she shared sadly.

Sammi Deen Baloch said that earlier there used to be their fathers, brothers and husbands joining the list of missing persons but now there are Baloch women going missing also.

Maria Yaqub of the Gujjar Nullah affectees was there, too. She lamented how the plight of women who became homeless with their families was ignored by many. “Our privacy is hurt. Pregnant women in our community have been pushed and kicked around as they tried to stop the bulldozers and they have had miscarriages,” she said.

Representing the transgender community, Shahzadi Rai said that their biggest issue is fighting for their identity. “What to talk about getting a decent job, after it was said that we are kafir, people even stopped giving us alms,” Shahzadi pointed out.

“Please do not make changes to the Transgender Act and please implement the 0.5 per cent job quota that was promised to us. Please also stop the hate speech against transgender community,” Shahzadi added.

Meanwhile, one of the organisers of the Aurat March read out their demands that include living wages for workers, cutting down of lavish government expenditures, relief and rehabilitation of flood victims, end of bonded labour, establishing shelters for women as well as transgender persons and an end to forced conversions.

Published in Dawn, March 9th, 2023