Blog - Pakistan
Saturday May 21 2022

Sexism in Pakistani politics: Name it. Shame it. Stop it.

A representational image of PTI Chairman Imran Khan and PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz. — illustration
A representational image of PTI Chairman Imran Khan and PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz. — illustration

Sexist and derogatory remarks need to stop, once and for all.

Former prime minister, and chairman of the PTI, Imran Khan's misogynistic remarks about his political rival, and the vice president of PML-N, Maryam Nawaz Sharif were uncalled for, and not what was expected from a national leader.

With the Pakistani rupee exploring new lows against the US dollar, Pakistan's politics is stooping to the lowest level as well.

The country, at the moment, needs a financial boost from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to survive economically. But is there any way to save our political morality?

This is not the first, and neither will it unfortunately be the last time that such misogynistic remarks will be made about women in Pakistan, who are considered to be an easy target.

Read more: Politicians, civil society berate Imran Khan for 'sexist comments' against Maryam Nawaz

In some parts of Pakistan, cruel practices such as honour killings and other outdated traditions have been used to suppress women and deny them their rights.

In other instances, men demean and mock strong women to put them down.

At a political rally in Multan on Friday, Imran Khan did exactly that. He said: “Someone sent me the speech delivered by Maryam Nawaz in Sargodha…In that speech, she uttered my name with such passion that I would like to tell her that Maryam, please be careful, your husband may get upset because you were constantly repeating my name.”

Khan is not the only one to resort to personal attacks against a woman in politics.

Former federal minister Khawaja Asif used sexist tropes to refer to PTI’s senior leader Shireen Mazari, by calling her a “tractor trolley” and another PTI leader Firdous Ashiq Awan a “dumper”.

While PML-N's Rana Sanaullah uttered extremely derogatory words against Khan and his third wife when they got married.

Read more: Sexism tracker in Pakistani politics

More recently, the former minister for information Fawad Chaudhry tweeted that the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar was a “low-IQ woman” and someone who is only known for her branded bags and accessories.

One silver lining, these days, is that when Pakistani men now talk about women in such a way, they are widely criticised on social and conventional media. But that is not enough. Condemnations should also come from within the political parties, by men and women, who should demand that their colleagues publicly apologise.

There should be no place in our politics and no justification for using such offensive language against women.