A Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam Fazl (JUI-F) senator on Friday targeted MQM Senator Nasreen Jalil with a sexist remark about her sartorial choices, choosing a session of the Senate’s Functional Committee on Human Rights which she was about to chair to sermonise about what her appearance “as a Muslim woman” should be.
Senator Mufti Abdul Sattar of the JUI-F told Jalil, who was wearing her customary sari, that an “able and intellectual” woman like her should have an “appearance like Muslims”.
“It is mandatory in Islam for women to cover all parts of their body except the face, hands and feet,” preached Sattar, who is a member of the same human rights committee Jalil chairs.
“God has raised you to this status, you should become a role model for other women,” he added, before going on to wonder: “What message will it send when the footage [of this meeting] is aired on TV?”
At this, Jalil, a seasoned politician, reminded the senator that she was a 74-year-old lady who recently “dodged death”.
Quipping that she could “drop dead at any moment”, Jalil asked Sattar what he felt the dressing requirements for a women of such circumstances should be.
But Sattar thankfully had other matters to attend to. After he was done with his unsolicited and unwanted remarks about Jalil’s appearance, the JUI-F senator turned his attention to what he termed “a conspiracy to amend the blasphemy laws of the country.”
“There are so many evils and crimes in the country that no one worries about, yet everyone has their eyes on amending the blasphemy law,” he complained, adding that people like him would never allow any such move to bear fruit.
Jalil impatiently brushed off his outlandish theory, saying: “We are not aware of who is involved in the conspiracy you’re talking about, and where it seems to be hatching.”
Sexism in parliament
Sexist and misogynistic behaviour and remarks are not a novelty to the Pakistani parliament, where lawmakers often consider political rivalries fair reason to verbally abuse their female counterparts.
One such incident happened last year in April, when during the address of Leader of the Opposition Khursheed Shah, Speaker Ayaz Sadiq asked women lawmakers to be silent or go outside and continue their conversation.
Shah was heavily criticised by female MNAs when he responded: “Do not ask these women to stop talking, Speaker, they will fall ill if they don’t talk continuously.”
Earlier in 2016, incumbent Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif had received heavy backlash for infamously comparing Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s chief whip, Shireen Mazari, with a “tractor trolley”.