‘Mera Jism Meri Marzi’ has nothing to do with clothing, says Zhalay Sarhadi

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Actor and model Zhalay Sarhadi recently sat down for a candid interview where she expressed her thoughts on feminism in Pakistan. Recounting the long-held notoriety of ‘Mera Jism Meri Marzi’, Sarhadi slammed the slogan’s critics for misconstruing its emphasis on bodily autonomy. “It has nothing to do with clothing. It has to do with [how] you cannot do anything to my body without my consent,” she explained.

The slogan has been in hot waters since it first appeared on the protest scene in 2018 at the first Aurat March in Karachi. Over the years, feminist organizers, activists, and workers have repeatedly shed light on the slogan’s utility in raising awareness on reproductive rights, gender-based violence, and consent education. Despite countless rebuttals, ‘Mera Jism Meri Marzi’ continues to be misrepresented as a Western propaganda aiming to destroy traditional values.

Speaking on her own contentions with Aurat March, Sarhadi offered that the discourse around the slogan is emblematic of a wider problem. The Digest Writer actor insisted that Aurat March needs to articulate its demands in a “proper way” to get them across to the public effectively.

“Aggression” in feminist spaces detracts the focus from important matters at hand and causes potential allies to ‘back off’, such as the case with certain slogans, despite their right intent. “There’s nothing wrong with ‘Mera Jism Meri Marzi’, but people have attributed all sorts of ‘stupid’ meaning to it,” she added.

Sarhadi also pointed out the varying attitudes towards feminism in Pakistan and rubbished “distorted” and “warped” views of the movement. Calling out people who resist the ‘feminist’ label, she pointedly added, “If you believe everyone should have equal rights, then you’re a feminist!”

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