The more a woman is covered, the more beautiful she is: Javed Sheikh

The more a woman is covered

Pakistani actor Javed Sheikh has made waves on the internet with his forthright opinions on the hotly-debated feminist slogan ‘Mera Jism Meri Marzi’. The veteran actor sat down for an open chat on the podcast FHM Pakistan with host Adnan Faisal.

“I am against ‘Mera Jism Meri Marzi’”, Sheikh expressed his unwavering position. “If you ask me, it isn’t even proper for girls to say this like it’s my choice to do whatever I want,” the Bin Roye actor furthered, commenting on the popularity of the slogan among young women.

The slogan has been criticised 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 of reproductive rights, gender-based violence, and consent education. Despite countless rebuttals, ‘Mera Jism Meri Marzi’ continues to be misrepresented as Western propaganda aiming to destroy traditional values.

“It’s an Islamic country, you’re born in a Muslim household, you come from a family,” added Sheikh, elaborating his take on the slogan’s unsuitability in Pakistan’s religio-cultural context. In response, podcast host Faisal pointed out that the feminist call aims to raise awareness about bodily consent, a right that applies regardless of gender.

The Teefa in Trouble actor said, “I disagree with this. It’s just my opinion. Sure, we live in very ‘modern’ times now but my belief is that a woman has her own distinct essence. There’s a sense of modesty about her.” The celebrity went on to say, “In my opinion, the more a woman is covered, the more beautiful she is,” reiterating that he was entitled to his belief even if mainstream culture is growing in its acceptability of alternative lifestyles.

Responding to the host’s argument that a culture of ‘jeans and t-shirt’ is commonplace now and preserving old-school ideas about modesty is near impossible in such times, Sheikh stated that the culture may be ‘like this’ but he is not.

The veteran Pakistani star, whose extensive portfolio boasts successful supporting roles in Bollywood blockbusters such as Om Shanti Om and Namaste London, is among many entertainment figures with strong opinions on the slogan. Just recently, an interview clip went viral online where Pakistani actor Faysal Qureshi put his two cents about ‘Mera Jism Meri Marzi’, also on Faisal’s podcast.

“People have distorted ‘Mera Jism Meri Marzi’ into a joke!” the Fitoor actor remarked on the slogan’s contentious reception. “It’s about consent. I am a man, but even I expect regard for my consent,” he added in agreement with the podcast host.

The actor discussed his views about consent and marital rape within cultural and religious expectations. He said, “Yes, our religion says that when men call their wives, they are obliged to go but there is a certain reason. There are a lot of things that precede such a demand that men are obliged to fulfil first. That includes the five prayers, charity, earning through the right means.”

The Bashar Momin star referenced the Prophetic model (Sunnah) in Islam as a comprehensive guide to approach marital relations without isolating them from other religious compulsions. “You haven’t learned that but you have fixated on one particular thing,” Qureshi said, disapproving of the cherry-picking of religion.

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