Activists and human rights defenders gathered on Tuesday outside the National Press Club in Islamabad to protest against the February 3 conviction of former prime minister Imran Khan and his wife Bushra Bibi in a case relating to their marriage during the latter’s Iddat period.
“They have written their black verdict with our red blood. You [the courts] have attacked our dignity, our privacy, our bodily autonomy. This is neither the first time nor the last.” She vowed that women will come out and protest the infringement on their rights.
“This is such a shameful judgment,” Yaqoob told Images. “Courts have nothing to do with women’s personal lives, with their menstruation, when they bleed, when they don’t bleed, and how long they bleed. This is very shameful.”
“It’s a woman’s body and only she can tell you what happened with her, when she was on her period, when she was pregnant. This is why we keep saying ‘mera jism, meri marzi’,” activist Farzana Bari told the protesters. The verdict is quite shocking, highly condemnable, patriarchal, anti-women and even anti-human, she said, adding that it will have an impact on both men and women.
She lamented that family laws in Pakistan discriminate against women — men get married four times without even seeking permission of their first wife. “We have to ensure that our family laws are gender-just and a woman’s testimony should be considered conclusive,” she said.
Activist Tahira Abdullah said that women’s bodies have been dragged into politics since the time of General Ziaul Haq, adding that women should be treated as human beings too. “How will we continue encouraging adversity towards women?” she asked.
Farhatullah Babar, the former senator and a member of the PPP, also joined the protest. He remarked that he is a political opponent of Imran Khan, yet he is participating in the protest because of the precedent the verdict it seeks to set. “This is a warning to all future PMs that they won’t just face convictions but also will be publicly humiliated,” he warned.
In their official statement, Aurat March Islamabad said they urge the higher courts to overturn these decisions, “as failure to do so will establish a precedent that could be exploited by a judiciary itself that is historically inclined towards anti-women rulings.”
The statement added that their rallying call Mera Jism, Meri Marzi asserts the “fundamental right of women to make decisions about their bodies and lives, free from coercion or interference.”
Earlier, in a statement on Twitter, Aurat March Islamabad called the verdict “a manifestation of unequal marriage laws that establish men’s superiority and control in marital relationships and reinforce patriarchal control over women’s bodies.”
Women’s Action Forum- Lahore had also expressed its dismay at the verdict in a tweet posted on February 3. It said that the “verdict is an assault on women’s autonomy over their bodies, dignity & privacy, setting dangerous precedent for the state’s intrusion into the private lives of citizens.” The organisation said it “condemn[ed] such patriarchal criminal trials and the dangerous precedents they set for women of this country.”