02/12 – The Lahore Protests for Gender Equality

Women protesting in Lahore during the 1980s. (Pinterest)

On this day in 1983, 100 women gathered in Lahore, Pakistan, to protest the Qanun-e-Shahadat (or Law of Evidence). Proposed by Pakistani dictator Zia-ul-Haq, the bill held that, in civil court, a man’s word counted for twice as much as a woman’s. Naturally, the Law of Evidence was unpopular with Pakistan’s female population. As the 100 protesters assembled, they were set upon by police officers with tear gas and batons. Despite suffering many injuries, the women held their ground; galvanized by the brutal suppression of the protesters, opposition to the bill grew throughout the country.

According to Article 25 of the Pakistani Constitution, men and women were equal in the eyes of the law. The Law of Evidence – which was al-Huq’s attempt at modifying the law to conform to Sharia law, and move away from the British model – directly contradicted the Constitution. Eventually, opposition grew so fierce that the Law was withdrawn. The 100 women of Lahore, although badly beaten, had been successful in fighting for their rights.

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