Denial of Aurat March Permission Sparks Controversy in Lahore

The Aurat March in Lahore, Pakistan, is facing resistance from the local administration, which has denied permission to hold the event on March 8th, International Women’s Day. Permission to hold the event was denied because of concerns over the security situation. However, the Aurat March organizing committee has condemned the decision and said they have the constitutional right to hold the event under Article 16 of the Constitution of Pakistan.

DC Denies Permission for Aurat March 

The District Commissioner (DC) in Lahore has declined permission for the Aurat March this upcoming week. Concerns over the security situation are because of potential friction between the Aurat March and religious organizations, specifically the student wings of Jamaat-e-Islami (JI). The DC issued a statement explaining that denying the permission was necessary to avoid unwarranted violence.

Aurat March OC Condemns Decision 

The Aurat March organizing committee has been vocal about their disagreement with the DC’s decision to deny permission for the event. They argue that women, transgender persons, gender non-conforming people, and allies of the Aurat March have the right to conduct their event under Article 16 of the Constitution of Pakistan. The committee has accused the DC of denying the NOC under pressure from JI’s “Haya March” and claimed that denying them permission directly violates their constitutional rights.

The committee has also emphasized that the Lahore and Islamabad high courts previously upheld the march’s constitutional right to speech and assembly in 2020. They argued that no real “public order” exists to prevent them from assembling, marching, and making their voices heard.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has also criticized the decision to deny permission for the Aurat March, calling it a routine challenge to the marchers’ right to a peaceful community. The HRCP has demanded that the Punjab government support the Aurat March’s right to freedom of speech and expression and provide full security for the event.

Denial of Permission Raises Concerns 

The denial of permission for the Aurat March and Convention has raised concerns about Pakistan’s freedom of speech and expression. The Aurat March organizing committee’s claims of discriminatory treatment by the Lahore DC put the country’s ongoing struggle for women’s rights under the spotlight.

The statement issued by the DC, mentioning security concerns and threats from religious organizations, just reinforces the challenging environment for women’s rights activists in Pakistan. The pressure exercised by religious groups to restrict the Aurat March’s activities also emphasizes the ongoing tension between the progressive and conservative forces in the country.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan’s criticism of the decision to deny permission for the Aurat March underscores the need to protect free speech and expression in the country. What’s more, the demand for security for the marchers suggests genuine concern for their safety and well-being, which is a ridiculous situation in and of itself.

However, the fact that the organizers are vowing to go ahead with the march despite the denial of permission suggests that the struggle for women’s rights and gender equality in Pakistan is far from over.

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