By Minerwa Tahir
All men are same in the eyes of God. In Pakistan, this may not be true for many things. However, when it comes to misogyny, sexism and the very need to deride and mock women, men, particularly Pakistani politicians, seem to be competing against their own selves. They want to break their own records of insulting women – that, too, on public forums.
Be it the defence minister or some politico-religious figure, our politicians feel no qualms about disrespecting women on public platforms. In fact, they seem to be making conscious efforts to hurl those insults.
Let’s take a look at the number of times Pakistani politicians have passed blatantly sexist and anti-women remarks:
That demand for a ‘more feminine’ voice
On June 8, 2016, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif targeted Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf MNA Shireen Mazari on the floor of the National Assembly. “Someone make this tractor trolley keep quiet,” he said when she and some other lawmakers protested against his speech on load-shedding during Ramazan.
“Make her voice more feminine,” he went on. As if it was not enough for a federal minister to pass such insolent remarks, another unidentified lawmaker felt the need to join in the bullying. He said, “Keep quiet, auntie.”
The senator with a ‘temper’
Similarly, in the same month last year, rights activist Marvi Sirmed was targeted by Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Senator Hafiz Hamdullah on live TV. First, he interrupted her when it was her turn to speak. Then, according to a post that Sirmed wrote on Facebook, he started abusing her with ‘worst possible expletives’. Among the things he called her were “whore” and also made an obscene reference to her clothing.
When Sirmed responded with a “Try that with women in your own family,” Hamdullah allegedly tried to beat her. Another guest on the show, Fayazul Hassan Chauhan, held Hamdullah back, and Sirmed was saved from his punches, she claims in her post. “He had to be taken away by the [channel] security.”
Speaking to a newspaper, Hamdullah had said that during the discussion, Barrister Masroor had said that had Council of Islamic Ideology Chairman Maulana Sheerani ‘smoked hashish’ as he had not passed any comment over the increasing incidents involving violence against women.
“Is this the way to speak about an 80-year-old religious scholar? Naturally I lost my temper and a heated exchange took place between me and Marvi Sirmed,” he justified. “I must have said something offensive in anger but Marvi was no less as she had hurled abuses at my deceased mother.”
He claimed that the matter ‘was settled’ at the sets later but the civil society activist is now posting baseless allegations against him on the social media.
What exactly were the PTI women doing?
In April this year, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif shamed PTI women for attending their party jalsa that involved dance and music.
“We have seen what they [the PTI women] were doing in yesterday’s rally,” the PM remarked.
Not in a private setting – he passed the remarks at a public gathering in Okara. One is left to wonder what is it exactly that these men want to prove by making a display of their chauvinism and misogyny on public forums. It’s seems like they are calling upon the world to bear witness to the fact that we are simply incapable of progress and evolution.
‘Please come to my chamber’
Achieving news lows in the records of sexism, Sindh Minister Imdad Pitafi asked Pakistan Muslim League – Functional MPA Nusrat Seher Abbasi tried to initiate some strange kind of banter with the female lawmaker – of course, on the floor of the assembly. After calling her a ‘drama queen’, he said: “Please come to my chamber, I will tell you,” while responding to her tough questions about his ministry and insistence that he read the answers in English.
Later, Abbasi ‘forgave’ him in the name of ‘tradition’.
The wives who must be beaten lightly
Last year, the Punjab Assembly passed a women’s protection bill – the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) and religious parties strongly rejected, declaring it ‘un-Islamic’.
Deliberating on the CII’s proposed ‘model’ women’s protection bill, the CII chairman Maulana Sherani suggested that a husband is allowed to ‘lightly’ beat his wife ‘if needed’. The ‘model’ propositions further said ‘women will not be permitted to receive foreign officials and state guests’. Other absurd suggestions included a ‘ban on co-education past the primary level’, ‘ban on women working in ‘vulgar’ advertisements’, barring female nurses from attending to male patients, making it compulsory for mothers to breastfeed for two years and ‘ban on advertisements baby formula/substitutes for breast milk’.
The most anti-women clauses of the proposed bill, other than the ‘light beating’, were that ‘a woman cannot use contraception without the husband’s permission’ and that ‘an abortion after 120 days will be classified as murder’.
The fight for the misogyny trophy
Defence Minister Khawaja Asif has kept his game up. He is just not going to let go of the trophy for misogyny and anti-women remarks. Without naming anyone and supposedly taking aim at Shireen Mazari and Firdaus Ashiq Awan (who has recently joined PTI), the federal minister tweeted: “tractor trolley and newly acquired dumper can be used for hauling political garbage … no additional effort/expense” — a suggestion at further possible defections to PTI.
While PM making history thru personal example..IK collecting political garbage,taking party to gutters..pretending recycling of incyclable
— Khawaja M. Asif (@KhawajaMAsif) June 12, 2017
There is silver lining for IK, Tractor trolly & newly acquired dumper can b used for hauling political garbage..no additional effort/expense
— Khawaja M. Asif (@KhawajaMAsif) June 12, 2017
Perhaps it’s difficult for Pakistani male politicians to make peace with the fact that they share these public spaces with women – that, too, local women who have their own opinions. They feel uncomfortable when they see local women assuming roles and jobs that they would like to remain exclusive to men. When men are unable to challenge the intellect of a woman, they resort to tactics such as body-shaming and cultural stereotypes. They make these attempts in order to isolate women who share these public spaces, such as the floor of the assembly, with them as well as the common women (like the ones who attended the PTI jalsa). However, none of that isolation seems to be happening as Pakistani women, undeterred by all the derision and hatred directed at them, still continue to work in their respective fields and prove their mettle.