Human rights bodies have condemned the denial of permission for Aurat March to hold public rallies in Lahore, urging the Punjab government to uphold the rights of women.
Earlier, the Aurat March organizing committee had requested a no objection certificate (NOC) from the district administration to hold a rally on March 8 at Nasser Bagh, Lahore, followed by a march around the perimeter of the park.
However, Lahore Deputy Commissioner (DC) Rafia Haider rejected permission to organize the Aurat March on the grounds of security concerns, especially resulting in the likelihood of clashes with members of Jamaat-i-Islami’s ‘Haya March’ who had also announced a program against the Aurat March.
Read more: The other side of Aurat March
The move sparked intense criticism. The Aurat March organising committee strongly condemned the DC for rejecting their application to hold the event, while asserting that they would hold the march on March 8 and would not allow anyone to snatch their constitutional right.
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?
— عورت مارچ لاہور – Aurat March Lahore (@AuratMarch) March 3, 2023
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has strongly condemned the Lahore district administration’s decision.
In a statement, the HRCP said, “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. This is a poor defence. The caretaker Punjab government must uphold the Aurat March’s right to freedom of peaceful assembly and provide the marchers with full security.
Similarly, Amnesty International South Asia also condemned the decision. It said that rejection of the permission is an “unlawful and unnecessary restriction”.
“According to international human rights law, authorities must facilitate and protect this right. We call on the Lahore district administration and all administrations in Pakistan to respect, facilitate and protect the right to assembly, particularly of women in line with international human rights law,” Amnesty International South Asia said.
🇵🇰 Pakistan: Amnesty International is dismayed with the decision of the Lahore district administration to refuse permission for the @AuratMarch citing, “controversial cards and banners for awareness of women’s rights” amongst other reasons. (1/3)
— Amnesty International South Asia (@amnestysasia) March 3, 2023