Sarfraz Lecture 2020: The Politics of Propriety: Feminist Actions, Culture & Cultural Rights in Pakistan

Conveners: Wolfson College

Speakers: Farida Shaheed; Sir Tim Hitchens

This lecture, in conversation with Sir Tim Hitchens, aims to discuss the huge backlash to the Aurat March (Women’s March) since 2018 catalysed by slogans that challenge the social norms starting with the seemingly innocuous and often humorous placards of ‘Heat your own food’ & ‘wash your own socks’ to more provocative ones such as ‘There! Now I’m sitting properly’ and especially the widely used one in 2019 ‘Mera Jism Meri Marzi’ – roughly translating the English language feminist slogan “My Body My Choice’ – but absent in the English word ‘choice’ is a connotation of desire in the Urdu marzi. Also, differences between the state-oriented women’s movement that burst onto the scene during the martial law and the societal focus of today’s activists, and the decades of hard work and struggle on laws and policies seem to disappear into the black hole of patriarchal mindsets and norms – therefore the vitality of tackling/challenging cultural parametres that impede the realization of rights - and the 'what and why' of cultural rights.

Farida Shaheed is a sociologist and feminist human rights activist. In 2012, she was appointed in the United Nations Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights. She has worked for more than 25 years promoting and protecting cultural rights by fostering policies and projects designed in culturally sensitive ways to support the rights of marginalized sectors, including women and religious and ethnic minorities.

The Sarfraz Pakistan Annual Lecture, named in honour of the business-man Lord Aamer Sarfraz of Kensington, focuses on the history and culture of Pakistan. It brings together scholars, journalists and cultural commentators and provides an ideal opportunity for the College community to engage with South Asian culture.