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Wednesday, July 17, 2024  
11 Muharram 1446  

Rights bodies concerned over refusal to organise Aurat March in Lahore

‘This amounts to an unlawful and unnecessary restriction of the right to assembly,’ says Amnesty International South Asia
An Aurat March rally to mark International Women’s Day in Lahore held in March, 2021. AFP
An Aurat March rally to mark International Women’s Day in Lahore held in March, 2021. AFP

The human rights bodies were dismayed at the Lahore district administration’s decision to refuse permission on Friday to organise the Aurat March on March 8—International Women’s Day.

“This amounts to an unlawful and unnecessary restriction of the right to assembly,” Amnesty International South Asia said in a Twitter thread on Saturday. “According to international human rights law, authorities must facilitate and protect this right.”

Moreover, activist Usama Khilji has claimed that after Lahore, Multan and Islamabad administrations have refused to grant permission to Aurat March organisers.

He tweeted: “This is a gross violation of women’s rights guaranteed by Article 14, 15, 17, 19, & 25 of the Constitution.”

However, there are no official announcements regarding the aforementioned matter.

Multan’s Aurat March will start from Nawan Shehar Chowk, as orgnaisers call upon women and trans individuals to join the rally at 4 pm.

Earlier, Lahore Deputy Commissioner Rafia Haider rejected the permission to organise the Aurat March. The decision was taken because of “security concerns, threat alerts, controversial cards and banners for awareness of women’s rights, and strong reservation of general public and religious organisations especially Jamaat-e-Islami.”

It mentioned that the likelihood of clashes with members of JI’s ‘Haya March’.

The Aurat March organising committee had requested a no objection certificate (NOC) from the district administration for holding the event at Alhamra Hall, Mall Road/Aiwan-e-Iqbal, Egerton Road, and a demonstration from Press Club, Shimla to Faisal Chowk, Mall Road and also at Nasir Bagh. But, DC Haider rejected the plea “in order to avoid any law and order situation/mishap”.

The Amnesty International South Asia urged the Lahore district administration and all administrations in the country to “respect, facilitate and protect the right to assembly, particularly of women in line with international human rights law”.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan condemned the decision. “It is regrettable that their right to peaceful assembly is routinely challenged by the district administration on the grounds that ‘controversial’ placards and ‘strong reservations’ from the public and religious organisations ostensibly create law-and-order risks,” it said.

The district administration’s described the decision as “poor defence”. It demanded of the interim government of the Punjab government to uphold the Aurat March’s right to freedom of peaceful assembly and provide the marchers with full security.

‘Are cricket matches more important than issues of gender-based violence?’

The Aurat March in its long thread on Twitter mentioned the ‘Haya March’ by the JI as the reason for denial.

“Not only are we being denied permission to gather at our chosen route (Nasir Bagh), the rejection further goes out of its way to foreclose all previous venues of the March such as Press Club, Alhamra, and Mall Road,” it said.

It termed the DC’s actions as a “blatant denial” of their fundamental rights as a people’s movement. The organisers were irked by the decision and said that they do not require a NOC to exercise their constitutional right to march. “There is no legitimate public order rationale to prevent us from assembling, marching and making our voices heard.”

Last year, it claimed that the Aurat March Lahore chose not to escalate things after the march was arbitrarily cut short by the district administration, despite being given a NOC. Permission was still given to violent and hateful groups to hold a counter-protest along the route of the march, it alleged.

“In a city where large crowds are allowed to gather for PSL, a peaceful gathering of women and gender minorities is being silenced and denied their constitutional right to assembly. Are cricket matches more important than issues of gender-based violence?” it asked.

The organisers reminded the city administration that the courts have already upheld their right to hold the event.

“There is no doubt that we will march on March 8th because we will not cede the little space we have carved for ourselves for 6 years. We will march, upholding the rich history of Pakistani women and transgender activists defiantly fighting the systems that seek to oppress us,” it said.

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