“Video banana mana hai! Cellphone neechay karein! Poochhay baghair video nahi bana saktay! Neechay karein!” yelled an Aurat March organiser at males exterior the Frere Corridor.
I turned to see a person making a video of the ladies standing in line on the entrance. I felt the organiser’s fury; it introduced again recollections of occasions when males in public areas had taken non-consensual photographs of me.
I shortly made my approach inside to keep away from a repeat of the previous.
As I entered, the temper modified. The power was festive, joyous and charged; #behenchara in full swing. An apt illustration of placard ‘Aaj waqai maa behen aik ho rahay hain.’
Aid. This was acquainted. This was protected.
Males additionally stepped up and got here to assist the motion. Not like within the earlier years, extra males confirmed up — an indication, I hoped, meant we had been shifting in the precise route.
Quickly the group burgeoned and with it the variety of males. In lower than an hour, the park swarmed with extra males than I used to be comfy round; a lot of them marginalised, some allies – however lots who had come to fulfill their lust.
Having learnt from expertise, I knew clusters of males close to girls was normally not a great signal. My panic bought the higher of me and I cautiously restricted my motion to the periphery of the primary crowd, sticking nearer to my group of pals — higher to keep up distance than elbow and brush previous males, no matter their intent.
Folks stopped by for photos and my pal promptly raised her poster. I stood at a distance, not desirous to be captured.
Seconds later I seen a person, his arm outstretched, casually making our video. I shielded my face and firmly informed him, “Video mat banaein,” naive sufficient to consider that he would respect consent and put his cellphone away.
He didn’t flinch. He didn’t even search for. He continued making the video, unstirred. His face coated behind his cellphone whereas I stood violated, my physique for him to eat with out my consent.
It was unnerving. I used to be again to my on a regular basis actuality and as soon as once more a everlasting reminiscence in a stranger’s cellphone.
In one other a part of Frere Corridor, Shahzadi Feriha, a trans girl and her pals had been additionally making an attempt to guard themselves from harassment.
When the organisers signalled the group to assemble for the march, a person approached Shahzadi and began making dialog. A number of moments later, he inched nearer.
“Dur hato,” warned Shahzadi and walked away.
She made her approach in the direction of the policemen on responsibility. She and her pals felt safer round them. As the group thinned, the trans girls referred to as their automotive to go away.
The person adopted Shahzadi and stated one thing to her. She signalled the policemen to seize him however he ran away.
The person then began following her pals as they moved across the park and verbally abused them, forcing them to return and stand with the police.
When their automotive arrived, the ladies bought prepared to go away however earlier than Shahzadi may sit inside, the person walked as much as her and stated, “What is your problem? Who do you think you are? You’re not a woman. Stop doing this march for the trans community.”
Shahzadi grabbed his hand to take him to the police, he responded with a punch to her hand and a kick to her leg. Shahzadi and her pals retaliated and hit him again. It ended up with each events getting injured.
In Islamabad’s Aurat March, Elia Rathore and her sister watched Ismat Shahjahan give her speech on stage when a person got here and stood subsequent to her and one other, behind her 11-year-old sister.
Elia positioned her leg behind her sister to forestall the person from coming nearer however the man stored shifting ahead. She informed the person to maneuver again, he solely stared in return. She repeated herself, “Ap hat jaein, please!”, he pretended to haven’t heard.
Elia turned to the person subsequent to her for help who then compelled the person to maneuver however that didn’t cease him from trying to come back shut once more. Elia then stood in entrance of the person as a wall between him and her sister to maintain him away.
In one other occasion, she seen two males ogling younger women whereas laughing and rubbing their bellies. One among them tried to get near one of many women.
“Ap kya dekh rahay hain?” Elia stated to him irritated, to which the person laughed and moved away. She took out her cellphone and began taking his photos; at first he laughed, then fearing the implications he coated his face and turned away.
It was now time for the march. The organisers moved the ladies to the entrance, subsequent to the tent that separated JUI-F’s March. The boys had been requested to maneuver to the again however many refused, some making movies of the ladies within the entrance with out their consent.
Inside seconds the JUI-F tore down the barrier and attacked the Aurat March, pelting the group with bricks and stones. Elia, her sister and her pals who had been standing subsequent to the barrier, panicked and ran as quick as attainable to save lots of themselves from the assault.
Within the commotion a person got here up behind one in every of Elia’s pals, groped her complete physique and stated, “Ap pareshan mat huwein, mein ap ka khayal rakhoon ga.”
As quickly because the folks round seen what was occurring, he ran away.
In one other a part of the Islamabad march, a girl and her sister attended the occasion for the primary time.
They felt unsafe. There have been too many males round, particularly in the primary crowd with none inclination to maneuver, not permitting girls ease of mobility.
After they walked to the facet for some air, her sister seen a person leering on the girl, his eyes shifting right down to her ass. Fixated. She referred to as him out, “Kya dekh rahay ho?”. The lady rotated and realised the person was standing uncomfortably shut behind her gazing her ass. He replied, “Kuch nahi,” and turned his face away.
“Kya baat hai? Aurat March pey aa key aurton ko taro homosexual?” her sister retorted. He laughed and appeared away.
As a girl who attended the Aurat March, I didn’t depart feeling ‘Mera Jism Meri Marzi’. Sadly, neither did the a number of girls I spoke to.
It is distressing that our expertise was tainted by lecherous males; males who view womxn’s our bodies as public property, the very males from whom we search azaadi.
The Aurat March is a big demonstration of public resistance and mobility; it offers us a platform to specific ourselves and be heard. It permits womxn, trans and non-binary folks to decrease their guard with out concern of judgement or hate. It brings us collectively publicly in our battle for rights. It creates a way of safety the place we will reclaim public areas with out the specter of sexual harassment. It offers us possession of narrative, physique and house.
It’s meant to be protected. It’s meant to liberate the marginalised, but in some main cities the march was hijacked by males who declare to be our ‘protectors’. Males who got here to forcefully take again our entry to a public house as a result of protesting for our rights on the roads was ‘asking for it’; very like once we step out to go to festivals, live shows, cafes and the streets. Relaxation assured, they will even ‘put us in our place’ in our properties.
They’ve dictated womxn’s place in society, whereas asserting their very own entry and freedom to all domains of society.
And the Aurat March challenges that.
So when the group at this 12 months’s march was majority males (a minimum of the place I used to be standing), I felt my anxiousness rising and instantly wished my male pals had accompanied me to the occasion.
It is ironic that I responded with needing males to guard me from males at an occasion that was meant to liberate me.
I am then left to query the function of males in a spot like Aurat March and to what extent their participation in an area for the marginalised damages and/or champions the motion.