Karachi: On International Women’s Day, a group of around 100 women clad in burqas and niqabs stood outside the Karachi Press Club demanding their rights.
These women were members of the Jamaat-e-Islami Women’s Wing. The political party organised a ‘Women Dignity Walk’ on Sunday to celebrate Women’s Day.
“We talk about the rights of women and demand these from the government, leaders and the society,” JI Women’s Wing General Secretary Durdana Siddiqui told media persons. “The rights Islam gives to women should be implemented in our society and culture,” she said.
The women had a list of demands that included inheritance rights, mehr rights (amount decided for a women at the time of nikkah) and assurance of livelihood.
According to the organisers, even today there are traditions that are insensitive towards women. “We strongly condemn traditions such as the concept of marriage to the Holy Quran,” the general secretary said.
The JI Women’s Wing has several smaller institutions that work under it for the welfare and well-being of women across the country. “We have an institution that trains female prisoners and we have a forum for the rights of female lawyers as well,” JI Women’s Wing South Deputy Shahnaz Kamal said.
“There are colleges and schools running under our party that educate women from the ages 18 to 35 in multiple fields,” Kamal said. These institutions also help them open small business inside their homes for their livelihoods.
Kamal pointed that the growing rate of violence against women in the country is because people have deviated from the teachings of the Holy Quran. “So many things that our religion teaches us are presented in an incorrect way to the public,” she said.
“For example, in the Holy Quran, the concept of haya [modesty] is not just limited to women but is also applicable to men,” she said. “But in our society, only women are expected to be modest. What about the men?” she questioned.
Kamal said that the government is also at fault when it comes to the failure to eradicate evil against women. “We have gone to Parliament hundreds of times and have demanded the death penalty for rapists, but the government has repeatedly failed to implement that,” she said.
Until these men aren’t hanged in public, crimes like these will continue, she added.
An 18-year-old marcher, however, disagreed with this. “Things like these happen when women choose to go out in inappropriate dresses,” said Areeba Shahkir, a student of the Jamiaat ul Mohsanat. “Other groups demanding women’s rights don’t understand the essence of the issue, they should demand rights for the safety of women such as a separate a transport system and separate universities,” she said.
Shahkir said that slogans such as ‘Mera Jism Meri Marzi‘ are against the mandate of JI and are a part of the “western agenda”.
“Screaming and shouting out on the streets is no way to demand rights. Allah has ranked women higher than men, so there’s no argument of equality with them,” she added.
On the other hand, Siddiqui said the actual agenda of the Aurat March, beneath the slogans and the hashtags, was very similar to what the JI Women’s Wing was demanding.
According to her, everyone should come together and work for the “genuine” issues faced by women. “In today’s era the issues of a woman are not khud khana garam karo [heat up your own food] and their ambitions are not vulgar, so why portray women negatively like this?” she asked.
The “real” issues faced by women are harassment, lack of education and safety at workplaces, Siddiqui added.