It appears that no amount of money or education can instil in a person the basic values of treating women with respect. The disgusting traits of indecency can creep up even if you are an influential politician; perhaps, especially if you are a politician.
Rana Sanaullah yesterday made inappropriate comments about the women who attended the rally, implying that they were not ‘honourable’ and alluded to their dancing. Talal Chaudhry also made remarks of a similar nature against the women, calling their participation as ‘on display’. A third politician, Abid Sher Ali issued derogatory and crass remarks against PTI’s chief whip Shireen Mazari.
It is an age-old tactic to keep women out of politics by perpetuating the “sisters and mothers” rhetoric, that there is honour in women and that it is a dishonourable woman who steps into the public political sphere. These politicians make such remarks so casually, without fear of consequences, as history has shown us that gendered and sexist attacks are forgiven easily. Despite our proud claim of having the first female Muslim leader, the political sphere in Pakistan has always been toxic for women, where attacks on sexuality, honour and body appearance are considered fair play, without consequence.
That tide, however, is changing. With the huge backlash against the PML-N politicians, the Punjab government has distanced away from Sanuallah’s remarks with Punjab Government Spokesperson Malik Ahmed Khan condemning the remarks.
The condemnation, however, was weak. Those sexist comments represent the worst of PML-N as a toxic party for women. In a time where PML-N claims to stand on principles and values, PML-N leaders need to show their activism is not just opportunistic and actively condemn and punish these derogatory statements. To do so would set a great example for other political parties to introspect on the toxic sexism that prevails in each party’s approach and rhetoric.