ISLAMABAD-The ‘Aurat Azadi March’ organisers on Friday said that the anti-march propaganda was an orchestrated campaign of defamation and the event is taking place because of the stark gender inequalities in the country.

These remarks were made at a joint press conference organised by the Aurat Azadi March in collaboration with Women’s Democratic Front and others.

The organisers of the Aurat Azadi march said that the opponents of the march are oblivious to the lived reality and suffering of Pakistani women, who have been violently victimised and repressed for decades in all walks of life.

They said the march is taking place because of the stark gender inequalities in Pakistan, from mass female illiteracy, to their economic exploitation within and outside the home, rising domestic and public violence, high levels of child and forced marriages, to the denial of inheritance and property rights, and exclusion in decision making structures at all levels.

“The rising feminist movement is an expression of the reality that women are no longer willing to accept patriarchal oppression in the public and private sphere and are now increasing resisting the violence and repression they have been undergoing for decades,” they said.

Speaking on the occasion, WDF President and Aurat Azadi March organiser Ismat Shahjahan said that women from all walks of life and nations of the country are on the streets protesting for their rights and it was the responsibility of the state to listen to them, address their demands and come up with a comprehensive policy framework for women’s emancipation and progress in Pakistan.

She said that rising violence from an ‘overdeveloped patriarchal structure’ had made women’s lives miserable in the country, which is why they were now speaking out in such large numbers.

Anam Rathor said that the purpose of the march was to speak out against all forms of violence, inequality and oppression that we face in every aspect of our lives - from killings to forced marriages, from sexual violence to acid attacks, from harassment to moral policing - and to take steps towards the creation of a more just and humane social order.

She said that the march organisers saw gender oppression as being linked to other forms of exploitation, including those based on class, nation and religion.

Addressing the gathering, Nasreen Azhar of HRCP said that the vicious campaign against the Aurat Azadi March was a sign that the women were threatening the very foundations of the oppressive patriarchal order that governs our society.

She forcefully defended the right of women and gender minorities to march and call for their rights.

They said the right to freedom of assembly and association are among the fundamental human rights, enshrined in the constitution of Pakistan.

She said that the religious right was falsely trying to paint the march organisers as un-Islamic, even though all of their demands were well within the rights granted to women by Islam and the constitution.