Custom dimensions 200x200 px (2)
پراِس سےآگےبھی

The Body & Beyond

Women Movements in Pakistan

WhatsApp Image 2022-08-27 at 3.56.46 PM

The Body & Beyond

Farida Batool

Tracing the struggle of women’s movement in Pakistan through the lens of the ‘body’ translates the personal into the political. The ‘Women’s Movement in Pakistan: Body and Beyond’ interrogates historical narratives by blending archival material with contemporary accounts to produce a historical and analytical story of courage presented through fifteen projects involving fourteen artists, art historians and media practitioners. The gallery-scape layers the timeline with street protest banners and associated slogans from the 1980’s to present times, to construct a genealogy of labels and terms of references depicting decades of struggle. These demands and issues have progressively challenged patriarchy by articulating a discourse spanning aesthetics, politics and the desiring ‘body’ within the complex socio cultural landscape of Pakistani society. Selected works of art and activism have employed the above stated symbolic references in order to articulate ‘body’ as a dialectical object filled with a creative force, contesting the structures of othering and marginalization. The collage of stories and narratives, as told by women and poets are subversive in nature and as the projects unfold its layers of enquiry, the visuality and the materiality of both the image/ sound/text and the conflict/desire/autonomy highlights the intellectual and artistic landscape developed over time despite excessive pressures. These creative conversations are an opportunity to take along the audience through the discursive imaginations of symbolism and the experiences of multiple transformations of the women’s movement in Pakistan

Play Video
Meda Jism vi tu, Meda Rooh vi tu | Farida Batool in collaboration with Syed Abu-Turab


Still Marching On | Ghazala Raees

Video (Duration 4:01)

Since the beginning of Aurat March in 2018, text and visuals on posters, banners and placards have been the primary source of controversies and contestation in mainstream media. Captions on placards have been exaggerated, misinterpreted and manipulated to target and spread propaganda against this annual women’s rights march. With this exhibit ‘Still marching on…’ let’s look back at the use of posters, banners and placards through the different periods of women’s rights movements in Lahore. By examining these we can trace where women’s rights activism began from in Lahore, and how it has always employed the use of posters, banners and placards as a medium of expression to put forward the movement’s demands/concerns and create a larger visual impact. Posters and banners as mediums of expression have been used throughout history during war, resistance, politics and marketing as effective devices to reach a mass audience. An integral element in protest marches especially, they are used to provoke and persuade, put out a call to action, to display dissent and to amplify marginalized voices. Whether consumed by the participants of a protest or passersby or other media outlets, the posters and banners are employed as a communication medium that are not only effective in the ephemeral moments of a protest but are able to register the voice of a cause for generations as archival records of an event. As archival records specific to women’s rights marches and protests in Lahore let’s sift through this plethora of paper, cardboard, ink, paint and fabric to investigate recurring patterns of concerns and ideas through the varying years of feminist activism in Lahore.

Falling stars | Ammara Khalid

Videos (Duration 2:14)

According to a world health organisation report, globally, as many as 38% of all murders of women are committed by intimate partners. This video highlights the violence experienced by performing female artists over the years. The lyrics of the song “Sawal karti hai Aurat” from the film “Bin Badaal Barsaat” have straightforward questions for the men of a patriarchal society. The music director of this song was the only female music director in the history of Pakistani cinema who made this masterpiece. This audio gives immaculate background music for this video to highlight the barbarity on these celebrated and empowered women in the Pakistani art world, who have been the victims of different levels of violence. These women had suffered the same fate as every Pakistani household woman who had been subjected to assault, torture, acid attacks, rape, or even murder for refusing to obey the so-called saviors, who were their immediate family, lover, or husband and the state.

Women Harassment and public transport | Hira Attiq and Raja Saad Tariq

Video (Duration 4:24)

Everyday, women and girls become targets of harassment in public transport irrespective of their age. In Pakistani culture, harassment and assault incidents are more often than not unreported. Many women feel helpless when it comes to reporting to any official security guards or Police, while it appears to most of the women that the legal process is tiring and unkind to victims as they are often shamed by society. We approached the same question but wanted to see how male and female perspective approach harassment differently. This study aims to find out about the complexities of reporting and coping with harassment while also highlighting how two groups looks at the issue differently. Where women were more focused on talking about the gaps in the present safety measure and system, men were more focused victim blaming, like they all condemn harassment against women but also simultaneously hold women. Most men seem to observe it as a fun activity i.e making women uncomfortable. It is because they are deprived and do not know how to behave and see women in public spaces.

We travelled across the city of Lahore on rickshaw, buses, metro train observing the public and public space. Together we took interviews of students, senior citizens and transport drivers and security guards appointed at metro stations. The research methods were informal and casual interviews that started with casual conversations collected and recorded both video and audio voice with the consent of the people who were willing to get their voices recorded. 

This video is a dialogue to bring about a better understanding of the issue to make local travels for women a safe option.

Humourous/Hate speech: a violation of body in digital space, video | Mehreen Rahman

Video (Duration 9:04)

This project is an exploration of Pakistani troll groups and a meme culture based on gendered hate. From casual sexism to trivialization of womxn’s issues and objectification of their bodies, offensive stereotypes, to the downright glorification and incitement of violence, this humour works to normalize gendered abuse and the patriarchal order. It contributes to a continuum of violence that that connects the digital and the physical, and ultimately creates an environment of fear, intimidation and hostility for both virtual and physical bodies. 

This meme misogyny is highly networked and operates through a process of collective meaning making and community work based on practices of creating, sharing and commenting to generate traffic. The aspirations of having your meme go viral, or your comment ‘pinned’ lead to a sort of competitive misogyny where the line between humor and hate speech dissolves.

Despite platforms’ rules and regulations, this humourous form of hate speech is widely prevalent online and apparently not serious enough to be banned. Pakistan’s cybercrime laws also recognize online harm as real harm, and speech as possibly harmful, criminalizing hateful expressions that are ‘likely to advance interfaith, sectarian or racial hatred’. However, gender based hatred is conveniently ignored…



Harmer, Emily & Lumsden, Karen. Online Othering: Exploring Digital Violence and Discrimination on the Web. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019

Jenkins, Henry. Spreadable Media : Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture. New York; London: New York University Press, 2013

Khan, Shmyla. Using Criminal Law to Tackle Cyber Harassment: Conceptual and Procedural Pitfalls from a Feminist Perspective 8 PLR 1, 2017.

Milner Ryan M. The World Made Meme: Public Conversations and Participatory Media. Cambridge Massachusetts: MIT Press, 2017

Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016, No. XL of 2016, Part 1: Acts, Ordinances, President’s Orders and Regulations, M.-302/L.-7646, The Gazette of Pakistan (2016).

Powell, Anastasia & Henry, Nicola. Sexual Violence in a Digital Age. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017. 

Shifman, Limor. Memes in Digital Culture. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 2014. 

Wiggins, Bradley. The Discursive Power of Memes in Digital Culture: Ideology, Semiotics, and Intertextuality, 2019.

Public Spaces and Women  | Usman Zia

Video (Duration 8:28)

The issue is with the entire society, which fails to give women their basic rights. A woman is blamed for the violence she is subjected to, whether in domestic realm or public space. Public space is not gender neutral. Urban planners ignore the needs of women in public spaces, making them exclusive, inaccessible and even dangerous for women. Unfortunately, not much has changed. Even today, public space is designed with the assumption that the primary beneficiary group who would access it, is going to be middle class, young and healthy men. Gender continues to be neglected in theory and in practice of shaping the cities.
Ideally, public spaces should promote human contact and community involvement and reflect local culture. In reality, women do not feel welcomed in the public spaces. They are expected to access it for a few socially acceptable reasons such as education and employment. This research highlights issues women face in the public spaces and these issues are trivialised by men. Usman Zia

Aurat March & a Woman’s Body | Shehzil Malik


Shehzil Malik is a designer and illustrator with a focus on human rights, feminism and South Asian identity. She leads a studio that works on social impact projects through digital art, publications, textile and public art. Her work has been featured in CNN, DW, BBC and Forbes with clients including Sony Music, Penguin Random House, Oxfam, New York Times, GIZ and Google.

Untitled I | Nilofar Akmut

Digital Photo

My work is informed by myths, her-stories, the stuff of material processes and last but not least the world that we inhabit.

Untitled 2 | Nilofar Akmut

Digital Photo

My work is informed by myths, her-stories, the stuff of material processes and last but not least the world that we inhabit.

Presence/Absence of Human body | Amina Ejaz


Amina Ejaz is a Doctoral student at the University of Victoria in the Department of Art History and Visual Studies, Canada with a concentration on contemporary Pakistani Art History. She has diversified research interests, which revolve around postcolonial theory, decolonization, activism, and feminism in Pakistan. She has completed Masters at the University of Edinburgh. She joined the National College of Arts, Lahore as an Assistant Professor in the Cultural Studies Department in 2015, where she taught Art History courses to Undergraduate students. In addition, she also taught courses on South Asian Visual Culture to MPhil students enrolled in the Cultural Studies Program.

Untitled I | Nida Ramzan

Video (Duration 2:11)

My series of video works and performance focuses on the female body and its relationship to different elements and everyday objects within various spaces and environments. On a daily basis I found myself overwhelmingly confronted with images and prescriptions for “being beautiful.” I decided to address the illusions and the realities that exist for women faced with this fact of contemporary culture.

Cover to Uncover | Nida Ramzan

Video (Duration 4:49)

My series of video works and performance focuses on the female body and its relationship to different elements and everyday objects within various spaces and environments. On a daily basis I found myself overwhelmingly confronted with images and prescriptions for “being beautiful.” I decided to address the illusions and the realities that exist for women faced with this fact of contemporary culture.

In the videos, the aim is to experiment till the point where the transformation and shape of the body merge with the objects and elements until it is changed into a sculpture when affected physically from the elements and objects. I felt it’s important to explore the issue of why women have such a premium placed upon their appearance, pushing many to the point of obsession and most to spend a great deal of time and money attempting to recreate themselves. The work offers a visual critique of the psychological, corporeal and cultural ways of viewing the human condition. The certain symbols contained in the videos are used to reflect the idea of violence, endurance and communication

Ghairat Gardi | Ammara Khalid

Video (Duration 3:19)

This video chronicles the journey of every woman who sacrifices her life, endures domestic violence, acid attacks, sexual assaults, and is killed in the name of honor. The Constitution of Pakistan gives equal rights to women, but in reality, not a single bill was passed till 2000 to rescue women from violence. Almost every woman experiences some form of violence in her life, and society accepts laws like the “Hudood Ordinance” that blame the victim. The discriminating laws in patriarchal society create turbulence in the functionality and generate uncomfortable results, which lead to mental health issues and a culture of violence. This audio-visual piece recounts historical and current events concerning violence against women and the formation of the law in Pakistani sociopolitical and religious society. The research in this video shows that this vicious circle of savagery is never ending until the laws are executed across the board.

NO Means NO! | Atiab Rehman

Video (Duration 8:42)

Time and time again, Pakistani drama and the Bollywood movies have portrayed the same narrative of love which includes the male protagonist shamelessly following and stalking the female protagonist until she gives into his demands of romance, willingly or under pressure. The male protagonist, often, seems to be persistent about his goal, that is, to convince his love interest to reciprocate his feelings. In recent times, when people have become more self aware and recognize toxic patterns easily, it is hard to ignore how Pakistani drama and the Bollywood has mastered the art of romanticizing unhealthy behavioral patterns such as stalking, obsessing or abusing other people to get their own way. But has this approach towards love and romance affected the way people in real life act and pursue their potential partners? That is the question I hope to answer through my research which culminated in making a collge of video clips to highlight toxic notion of love and how … Obsession, stalking, repetitive requests and not taking no for an answer are some aspects of Indian cinema that are repeated in movies and not looked down upon. These actions are shown in a positive light and almost all of these show the hero, or the male love interest, as the victim for being turned down. Their heinous actions are not displayed as immoral but instead, as a person willing to do anything to attain their love. This builds a notion that it is okay to commit crimes even if your intention behind it is romantic. All of the above listed films had one common theme: pursuing your love interest to great lengths, till she finally says yes. Under this objective, hideous actions that were not considered wrong like stalking the girl, obsessing over her in unhealthy manners, forcing her both physically and mentally, manipulating her against her family and friends, making her break out of previous relationships and not take no for an answer. The patterns in ways that women face harassment on a daily basis and in how ‘Love’ is portrayed in films have many similar aspects. When, in movies, a guy constantly follows and convinces a girl to say yes to his proposal, it looks romantic. But when a guy does this in real life, women feel threatened and worry for their lives because saying no could also mean any man could come and harm them out of vengeance. In the film Raanjhanaa, the male protagonist falls in love with a girl of a higher social standing than his own, and makes it his life’s mission to be with her. She constantly gives him plenty of sensible reasons why she does not want to be romantically involved with him. Reasons like belonging to different religions and social dynamics, her wanting to pursue higher studies out of town or being interested in somebody else. But Kundan, the hero, does not back off from trying to convince Zoya, the female protagonist. In one of the most acclaimed scenes of the film, Kundan threatens Zoya that he will slit his wrist if she says she doesn’t love him, to which Zoya replies that she does not. Kundan proceeds with his threat and cuts his wrist with a blade that very second, which puts Zoya in a huge guilt trip. This , like many others, was supposed to be portrayed as a sign of his true love. But in reality, it should have been considered a sign of emotional manipulation. Leaving the girl no choice but to be with him because she feels like his life is her responsibility now. Likewise, in the film Kabir Singh, the hero is a senior in college who falls for a girl in her first year. With the social culture of the college system, he has a clear upper hand over the girl and could practically make her do anything he wanted. He uses that to his own advantage and starts making the girl skip classes, not have a life outside of what includes him, not have other friends and dedicate all her time to him only. The girl, who was shown as very innocent and pampered, has obviously no idea of how things are supposed to be otherwise, and after a certain point, gives in to his feelings. Although the film showed this narrative as a great love story, to a viewer, it looked like a simple case of Stockholm syndrome. Kabir Singh, the male protagonist, takes the girl away without her clear consent and the girl, Preeti, who barely utters a word throughout the film, does not have much of a choice. Till date, Bollywood portrays love as an achievement to attain instead of a part of life that comes along in its due time. Their inadequacy in keeping up with social changes and sticking to the age-old ideas of romance have more of an impact on society than one could imagine. When men in real life mirror what they see on the big screen, the consequences are only faced by women.

Threshold spaces-the body is present- | Zohreen Murtaza


 This exhibition brings together a repertoire of dynamic works by pioneering women artists who started practicing between the 1950s and late 1970s, in dialogue with the works of more contemporary and emerging artists who have followed  suit afterwards. Metaphor, Similie, archetypal symbol came to characterize many works produced during and immediately after the end of the dictatorship of the 80s but in the decades that have followed women artists have pushed and transcended the boundaries of these cautious overtures that were then transformed into whimsical visual vocabularies. “Threshold Spaces: The Body is Present” is an attempt to trace the trajectory of subject matter and iconography conceived by women artists that was borne as a result of political upheavals which contested the question of a  woman’s place in society.


Nida Ramzan

Zohreen Murtaza

Hira Attiq

Shehzil Malik

Atiab Rehman

Usman Zia

Mehreen Rahman

Ghazala Raees

Raja Saad Tariq

Amina Ejaz

Nilofar Akmut

Aala Fatima

Anarkali is Alive

ASR Resource Centre


Farah Batool

Feminist Mushaira 1994-95

Ghazala Rehman

Haleema Bibi

Jahan e Jahanara

Khawar Mumtaz

Women’s Action Forum (WAF)

Naazish Attaullah

Narimaan Aziz

Nasreen BIBI

Nazia Asif

Neelam Hussain

Post Box Productions

Salima Hashmi

Saltanat Bukhari

Seema Iftikharuddin

Shahbano Naushahi

Sohni Batool Haque

Silvi Khursheed

Syed Abu Turab