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LAHORE: In Lahore, the Aurat March started from the Lahore Press Club and culminated outside the Punjab Assembly building. The Aurat March Lahore organisers also laid out a "#MeToo blanket" on which women shared their experiences of sexual violence and abuse. As the attendees gathered, they chanted slogans calling for the independence of women.

The march went through Egerton road till Punjab Assembly building, protected by two layers of security personnel, many of whom included policewomen. Meanwhile, a resolution was submitted in the Punjab Assembly by PML-N MPA Hina Pervez Butt. As per the resolution the House praised the services of Madre- Millat Fatma Jinnah, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and Kalsoom Nawaz for their services for democracy. The House also praised the services of Dr Ruth Pfau, Bilquis Idhi, Maryam Mukhtar, Malala Yusafzai and Arfa Kareem for their services in their respective fields.

The Lahore chapter's demands include fulfilment of basic necessities by the state and a better infrastructure given to survivors of abuse who need access to mental as well as physical care within a rehabilitative framework in order to adequately manage the long-term effects of the violence visited upon them. Concerns about other health issues are also raised in the document, including, educational programs and training aiming to stop stigmatization and shame associated with gendered bodies, breast cancer, reproductive health, the gender pain gap, more gender sensitized medico-legal practitioners, charging for forensic services (including from rape victims), HIV, access to free medicines, rights of PWDs, implementation of the Transgender Act 2018, access to clean water and toilets, especially to avoid contraction of Covid-19, healthcare for female prisoners, and drug addicts and users, an end to underage marriage, and several other issues associated with the health sector.

Meanwhile speakers of an international conference held at Punjab University in connection with the World Women day stressed the need to empower and educate women as women's role in all segments of society was essential for the development of Pakistan.

They expressed thses views while addressing two-day international conference "Contemporary Gender Issues: Challenges and Opportunities".

Sarwar Foundation Vice Chairperson Begum Parveen Sarwar, Justice Nasira Javed Iqbal (r), PU Pro Vice Chancellor Prof Dr Muhammad Saleem Mazhar, Chairperson Punjab Women Protection Authority Kaneez Fatima, Ministry of Human Rights Director General Muhammad Ali Khan, Dean Faculty of Behavioral and Social Sciences Prof Dr Umbreen Javed, Chairperson Department of Gender Studies Prof Dr Ra'ana Malik, faculty members and students participated in the event.

Addressing the conference, Mrs Parveen Sarwar said that women were progressing in all the fields in Pakistan. She said that the most gold medals in education were grabbed by female students which reflected their potential in the field of education. She said that women gave respect and love to the society. She said that Pakistani men were also encouraging women for their prosperity. She said that we must give time to the women to adjust in another environment after marriage. She said that through Hunar Gah Centres in Punjab, more than twenty thousand women had been provided training in dress stitching. She said that it was not the story of Pakistan only where we get our rights after difficulties.

She said that she and her family faced life threats when they started to struggle for the rights of the Muslims in the United Kingdom. She said that we must provide a safe environment to our women.

Justice Nasira Javed Iqbal (r) said everyday of the year belonged to the women as the world was incomplete without them. She said that educated and skilled women could polish the whole society. She said that the women in Pakistan had progressed in all the fields. She said that the first woman prime minister of the Muslim world also belonged to Pakistan. She said that if all the girls were educated, Pakistan could rapidly progress in the world. She said that the women would play their role in the development of Pakistan as they did for the establishment of the country.

A panel discussion titled "are women marginalized in Pakistan?" was held here at the Government College University Lahore on the World Women's Day. Punjab University Institute of Social and Cultural Studies Director Prof Dr Rubeena Zakar, Bahria University Islamabad Law Department Chairperson Ms Malieka Farah Deeba and Lahore Waste Management Company (LWMC) CEO Imran Ali Sultan participated in an hour-long discussion chaired by Vice Chancellor Prof. Dr Asghar Zaidi.

Speaking on the occasion, Vice Chancellor Prof Zaidi said youth have great responsibility to bring in change in the society; they should not get challenged and worried by any expression of opinion and protest. "Women are free to express their thought through aurat march or in other ways, and men are free to express their opinions. But it should be done in a cultured and civilized way to develop each other not to damage each other," the VC said.

Prof Rubeena Zakar, PhD from Bielefeld University Germany, believed that one of the major form of marginalization of women is domestic violence against them which result in their health issues. "Health is not just a medical issue, rather it is also a sociological issue and we have to see these issues together," she said.

Ms Malieka Farah Deeba said that laws have been formed but are not being implemented because of lack of cultural awareness in men and women both. She stressed that men and women have to live and work together by promoting each other and by understanding each other's needs.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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