#Mera Jism Meri Marzi in eyes of dignity

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Hafiz Muhammad Azeem

THE slogan is defined as a short and striking or memorable phrase used in advertising. And the purpose of a slogan is to capture the attention of the audience it is trying to reach. It is usually written in an eye-catching order to attract consumers or audiences. Similar is the case in Aurat March. Slogans are being used to attract the audience. They are being written in an eye-catching manner—also some are being represented eccentrically and irregularly. All just to catch the audience. One of the slogans caught the most audience. (#Mera Jism Meri Marzi).Ironically, fear of Novel Coronavirus could not get us engaged in debate more than the terminology issue of the slogan (#Mera Jism Meri Marzi).
Each mobile phone in every person’s hand at every workplace is depicting the slogan (#Mera Jism Meri Marzi) issue. The heat brings the matter to the court-room. But could not convince the judge. And he holds: “It is in this context that the International Women’s Day ought to be observed as a day of introspection. The petitioners and the society should show their abhorrence and outrage against the norms of certain sections of our society, which are in defiance of Islamic injunctions”. Anyhow, some said, the very slogan is not only misunderstood but also largely taken out of the context. To them, it might be true: what meaning do you have in your minds or context. But the question is how our society is perceiving it. Why does the majority feel it against human dignity?
I too give weightage to this question. Although the courts-of-law gave the slogan (#Mera Jism Meri Marzi) a clean-chit. Yet, could we ignore the majority, while living in a democracy, where the majority’s will and opinions are the only way to rule and regulate. Could we put it aside, how the majority holds dignity amid them? Could we, based on our acuteness, shrewdness, and perspicaciousness—which rarely found in a society of 59% literacy rate—ignore the mores and current social dignity? Goerge Ketab in his book “Human Dignity” told us that “human dignity is perceived to be the basis for human rights”. He further tells us that “the core idea of human dignity is that on earth, humanity is the greatest type of beings—or what we call species because we have learned to see humanity as one species in the animal kingdom, which is made up of many other species along with our own—and that every member deserves to be treated in a manner consonant with the high worth of the species”.
Furthermore, at the core of dignity lies equality. How humanity differs from the animal kingdom; the top of the most reason is equality. And among equality—in words of George Ketab—”feelings of injury and insult have mattered most, especially when they come together to impel a leap of consciousness, in which a quickened expectation of decent treatment is combined with a more definite feeling of what human dignity in some simple sense is owed”. Here, decency and morality are being emphasized as part and parcel of human dignity. Whether the slogan (#Mera Jism Meri Marzi)is decent and moral; the answer depends on your class of society.
However, here the majority class is with a 59% literacy rate. And to them, the slogan (#Mera Jism Meri Marzi) is antagonistic to human dignity. Yet, we can distinguish between the dignity of every human individual and the dignity of the human society as a whole. Those who are in favour of the slogan (#Mera Jism Meri Marzi) are considering dignity an individual subject, yet the society’s dignity outweighs the individual dignity. Because as per the doctrine of proportionality or balancing defined by Prof. Aharon Barak in his book “Proportionality”, whenever in considering the individual constitutional-fundamental right (in this case an individual dignity) comes in the way to a public right (in this case the public’s view of dignity regarding the slogan), the balance must be done amid them, and what prejudice the most to the other should be abandoned.
In our case, two rights: one, individual right to express (Article-19 of the Constitution of Pakistan) competes with the right to dignity (Article-14 of the Constitution of Pakistan). As per the balancing test: which one would be prejudiced most? Whether the right to express or the right to dignity? The answer is the right to dignity of society. Because dignity is inviolable and not subject to any limitation. Whereas, the right-to-expression has been controlled by almost eight to nine exceptions, including morality and dignity. So, dignity outweighs expression.
Although, the higher courts of the country have not banned the slogan (#Mera Jism Meri Marzi), yet the majority have found it altogether abhorrent, unethical against the mores and understandings of the society regarding their dignity. While reiterating here, that our majority is not as much acute and good interpreters as the Aurat March organizers are. Therefore, their humble views must not be set aside with such impunity. As the majority’s dignity is at stake, this slogan must be reshaped with a dignified manner, keeping in due regard to our majority acuteness and understanding. Lastly, we all in our childhood, read stories with morals: “All that glitters is not gold”; applying the same here too and as a natural corollary “All that catches audience is not a good slogan”. Therefore, change of slogan (#Mera Jism Meri Marzi) is inevitable, if one deems society’s dignity more important to the individual one.
—The writer is an Advocate of the High Court, based in Lahore.

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