Pakistani Women’s Concerns Rise Ahead of International Women’s Day

Thousands of women will protest in cities across Pakistan on Tuesday (8/3) to mark International Women’s Day. They also demand greater rights in this conservative, male-dominated society.

Pakistani women will carry out the rally by emphasizing the slogan, “My body, my rights,” which means freedom in making decisions such as marriage, sex, reproductive health and dress in the Muslim-majority country.

Women activists also used the opportunity to promote gender equality, pressure the government to enforce domestic violence laws, and demand protection from rape. They say many rapes and violence go unreported.

The rallies will be held amid opposition from religious officials.

Tahira Abdullah and Huda Bukhari, organizers of the women’s rally in Islamabad told VOA that the local government has not given them official permission to hold demonstrations in the capital area. The women also claimed to have received many letters and calls containing threats ahead of the March 8 protests.

Separately, the federal minister of religious affairs in Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government has voiced opposition to the actions.

Noor-ul-Haq Qadri, an elected member of Pakistan’s main party, Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), appealed in a letter to the prime minister that Tuesday (8/3) be observed as International Hijab Day only.

The federal minister told Khan that no group should be allowed to insult Islamic values, societal norms, hijab or modesty with actions that, he said, could hurt the feelings of Muslims in the country.

Prime Minister Khan has not yet responded to his minister’s appeal. [vm/lt]