The Sindh assembly saw an unedifying display of sexism, chauvinism and misogyny on Friday 20th January. Offensive remarks were made by a government minister against a female MPA from an Opposition party. The remarks were expunged from the record by the Deputy speaker but it made little difference, and Imdad Pitafi continued to abuse Nusrat Seher Abbasi eventually reducing her to tears. Other members present decried the incident and demanded action against Pitafi — an unlikely outcome to a disgraceful but by no means isolated display by male parliamentarians.
The vulgarity of Mr Pitafi culminated in him inviting Ms Abbasi to his chambers if she wanted an answer to her question — and did so repeatedly. Nothing in the question put by Ms Abbasi was remotely inappropriate, yet it evinced a response that was unparliamentary by a minister who ought to have known better but clearly did not and did not care that he did not either. Considering that Mr Pitafi is a representative of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) one might have expected a more enlightened response rather than one loaded with crude sexism but not so.
The PPP likes to present itself as the party of modern and moderate values, a party that is a comfort zone for women who practise politics. What anybody watching on television saw was a display that put the PPP to shame. The Sindh Chief Minister was in the assembly throughout the exchange that brought disgrace to Mr Pitafi. After the incident commentators and analysts pointed out a number of occasions when male parliamentarians have abused women in assemblies, with one commentator observing that misogyny and chauvinism were present in all political parties. At the very least Mr Pitafi deserves a period of suspension for his vile behaviour, accompanied by a public apology to Ms Abbasi. It is a reflection of the poor quality of our male elected members that neither is likely to happen.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 23rd, 2017.
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