Attention is drawn to sexism in parliament in Pakistan:
Defence Minister Khawaja Asif’s recent remarks against Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf MNA Shireen Mazari reminded everyone of the ugly sexism women in parliament and politics deal with daily, in their work life. Politicians are generally easy target of public mudslinging by their opponents. However, women politicians face an added disadvantage for the specific gendered image and roles attached to them. If they seek to be equal partners in politics, despite their low headcount, their opponents have a wide variety of tools to ‘put them in place’. These may range from remarks directed at their physical appearance to smear campaigns, including doctored images circulated on the media. It is no surprise the most vocal women parliamentarians in Pakistan have been repeatedly targeted by this vulgar mentality. The credit goes to the likes of Benazir Bhutto, Sherry Rehman, Marvi Memon, Shazia Marri, Sharmila Farooqi and many others for not giving in to this blackmailing.
Sexism targeting women in politics and legislature also demonstrates the patriarchal mind-set’s refusal to accept of women as partners in political sphere. The 89 women in Pakistan’s senate and national assembly are major contributors to the agenda of the House. Last year, they presented 22 out of 26 private members bill, demonstrating their seriousness towards legislative business. They passionately push the cause of anti-violence, health, education, environment and governance. Performance-wise, they shine in each annual report on parliament’s conduct. Yet their ‘utility’ is repeatedly questioned, indicating affirmative action facilitating their participation in legislature is still seen as charity and a matter of male privilege.