“Mera Jism, Meri Marzi”: Why did this phrase provoke so much abhorrence and hatred in Pakistan’s society. Perhaps the Pakistani society did not realise it but the association of such a straightforward statement with indecency and obscenity was only a projection of their own perception of a woman’s body.
In simple terms, the statement was translated as a desire to strip off their clothes and engage in unchecked affairs. The worst was assumed, and the characters of these women were slandered everywhere.
Whereas it was merely a courageous demand for body autonomy. The identity of women has been reduced to sexualised bodies and commodities and the reins have been given in the hands of the men.
The harsh reality is that women are stripped of physical autonomy on every step. When they are married off without their consent. And then they are incapable of escaping that marriage because they do not have financial resources or their family’s support. In addition to that, the Sharia does not acknowledge marital rape. This entire patriarchal structure is set up in a way that does not make these things look oppressive. But is it not abuse when these women are stripped of the choice to engage in a physical relationship?
Women are also deprived of the choice when it comes to hosting children inside their own wombs. Due to the conservative approach of many men, the use of contraceptives is minimal. Which not only leads to overpopulation but wreaks havoc on the physical health of the mothers. The medical world is full of cases of women suffering uterine bleeding, menstrual disorders, malnutrition, breast problems. In Pakistan, a woman cannot get a sterilization procedure done without the permission of her husband while there is no such restriction on a man. From the example of the woman who suffered the agony of uterine bleeding because her husband did not consent to the surgery. To the woman whose husband got her uterus sewed without her knowledge. Are proof that women are treated as men’s owned commodities.
Another example is the ideology that opposed Domestic Violence. Women’s servitude is deeply inculcated in our society. That a committee of men rejected a woman’s right to protect herself from her husband’s physical abuse.
All these are reasons why “mera jism meri marzi” is important. It’s because Khadija Siddiqui had a right to refuse a proposal and not be stabbed 23 times. It is because those 400 men do not have the right to grope and claw at a woman no matter what. It is because Usman Mirza had no right to strip the girl on camera and sexually harass her on camera. It is because Nayab’s brother had no right to murder her in the name of honour. This is a country where children who aren’t considered capable of driving a car are married of. A country where the practice of Vani – a form of arranged or forced child marriage, and the result of punishment decided by a council of tribal elders named jirga – is still observed. A country where Mukhtaran Mai was gang-raped on the order of a tribal council to settle a dispute between men.
How delusional and blind are we as a society when we discard all these issues and reduce such a meaningful demand for basic rights to mere vulgarity. Every human has the right over their own body and life. Society needs to break free of these repressive ideologies. No matter how much it threatens our societal framework because if our culture allows such injustice then it might not be worth saving.