On This Day: Protest movement started due to women's word counting half of men's endures - Feb. 12, 1983
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Women remember iconic 1983 demo, vow to fight oppression
Published February 13, 2019
In Pakistan, Feb 12 is a milestone in the countrys womens rights movement. On this day in 1983, several women defied the military dictatorship of Gen Ziaul Haq by taking out a public demonstration on Lahores The Mall road despite martial law regulations that banned all political activity, processions and public protests.
The primary reason for this demonstration was the proposed law of evidence, which would effectively have reduced the testimony of women to half of that of men, said Farida Shaheed, who was a part of the historic protest.
The accumulative trigger was the dictatorships unrelenting push to rescind womens rights and reduce their status to half a human. This demonstration became a symbol for womens resistance to all forms of oppression and belief in an equal, equitable and just democratic order.
State oppression in those days was through a military dictatorship, added Ms Saeeda. Today, even in a so-called civilian government, our freedom is being snatched from us and we are being pushed to the wall.
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1983 women's march, Lahore
On 12 February 1983, a women's march was held in Lahore, Pakistan. The march was led by the Women's Action Forum (WAF) and the Punjab Women Lawyers Association. It assembled at Mall Road in Lahore to proceed toward the Lahore High Court in Pakistan to protest against the discriminatory Law of Evidence and other Hudood Ordinances. The marchers were tear gassed and baton charged by police injuring many women. 50 of the marchers were arrested for defying the prohibition of public assembly that was in force. Pakistan's National Women's Day has been held officially on this day, in commemoration, since declared in 2012.
The prime cause for the demonstration was the proposed law of evidence, which intended to reduce the value of testimony of women to half of that of men. This was compounded by General Zia regime's moves to reduce women's rights. It was the first public demonstration by any group in defiance of the martial law of General Zia Ul.
According to Anita M. Weiss, due to continued protests by aggrieved women, the government had to delay implementation of contentious changes in the law for almost two years. Weiss says, the version of the law finally adopted devalued testimony of two women equaling to one man's testimony in financial matters and in other cases acceptance of single woman's testimony is left to the presiding magistrate's discretion.
Pakistan's National Women's Day is annually observed on February 12 to mark the first women's march in Pakistan against the Zia regime which was on 12 February 1983. The date was recognised by Pakistan's prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gillani, in 2012.
According to The News International still there is long way to go and much remains to be done for gender equality, since getting better recognition to women's movement 1983 onward, Pakistani women have formed enduring civil society, advanced in academics at universities, and improved political presence, could get few discriminatory laws amended too. According to Ayesha Khan while discriminatory laws from Zia times are still on the statute but positive development is issues of women's rights are getting politicized and coming into focus since then.
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