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Personal is political for feminism in Pakistan

  • 06 March 2020
‘Oh, so you are the feminist type’, declared my editor while I made a point about not wanting to cover an event that objectified women in 2015. It felt like an accusation. Was being a feminist wrong? I didn’t understand what was so negative about being a feminist in a country where womxn's rights, a vastly discussed topic, was hardly implemented. Where atrocities towards womxn have never decreased and where even social media has become an unsafe place for us.    

Indeed, feminism is a foreign theory for Pakistanis. A theory most believe is anti-state and against Pakistan’s norms and culture. It is unfortunately normalised for Pakistani womxn to suffer.

But, in 2018, feminists of Pakistan were hit with a ray of hope. While still not very well understood the concept, feminism has now become a household topic. People are asking questions, and the youth were ready with some answers. 

All it took was the courage of some womxn to gather like minded womxn and claim the streets of Pakistan's largest metropolis, Karachi. At 'Aurat March', womxn chanted slogans, raised posters against patriarchy and spoke for the rights of the suppressed. 

Aurat March is an annual mobilization arranged by independent organizations, mostly in the urban centers of the country like Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad. It is done to mark International Women's Day.

This year will be the third consecutive gathering in large cities, with support from small cities, somewhere the march will be held for the first time. 


'This and many other posters from the march did what has not been possible for the longest time, which was to get everyone to talk about feminism in Pakistan’s context. How do we perceive feminism? What are our issues and how will we be dealing with them?'  

While I was not in attendance during the first march, I vividly remember my social media feed being flooded with analysis of a poster which read in Urdu, ‘warm up your food yourself’ the very next day.

The poster, seemingly not harmful, sparked an unprecedented debate on social media and within households. ‘These women are running away from their tasks and want to sit and eat off men,’ said one of the many comments I read. 

On the other hand, womxn felt heard for the first time in years in Pakistan. A household chore, never given a second thought, was indeed an inculcation of the patriarchal mindset. 

Pakistani men largely do not help in household chores, the