Misogynistic norms in politics

Defense Minister Khawaja Asif recently came under fire for passing “indecent” remarks against Pakistan Tehreek Insaf‘s women leaders. In a series of tweets, the minister ridiculed the recent defections to the PTI and referred to Firdous Ashiq Awan as the party’s “newly acquired dumper” and Shireen Mazari as a “tractor trolley”, the second slur being a recurrence of what he had said about the PTI leader last year. Though the minister issued an apology last year for abusing the PTI leader, Dr Shireen Mazari, he repeated it in his recent tweet showing that his last apology was insincere and superficial only. This episode of women bashing at the hands of a senior law maker is merely a tip of iceberg that is widely ignored misogynistic routines in not only politics but in overall society as whole.

PML-N leader received severe flake from several segments of civil society and PTI leadership but sadly this is not enough, this instance of public naming and shaming of women politicians is neither new nor exclusive to any one party. Though the ruling part appears to have a greater ratio of sexist bigots among themselves but each party has their fair share be it PTI members passing shameful remarks against Maryam Nawaz or religious parties’ leaders dismissing women journalists and parliamentarian, sexism seems to be a norm in Pakistani Politics but Khawaja Asif sure does seem to stand out. This only shows that how deep rooted misogyny is in our society that even the top most electable chambers of country are not immune from this practice. Despite a number of pro-women laws enacted in the last few years, Pakistan’s political arena remains continuously patriarchal.

This misogynistic culture in Pakistani politics should be rooted out no matter how much prevalent it is and it requires a combined effort from all sectors of society at a wholesome level but the parliament is the first place where it should be actively rejected and removed. The minister should immediately issue unconditional apology to the PTI women and other MPs as this action has disgraced the parliament too. There should be effective disciplinary action against these kinds of “harmless” offences just as political correctness is required in media or sports, it is more needed in the parliament when legislation takes place. Women parliamentarians should also recognize that this is a shared threat to the sanctity of their role as law makers and they must unite across party lines and put these male chauvinists down even if they are from their own party.

About the author

Mian Bilal