Pervasive misogyny

Published: June 23, 2012
The writer is an Islamabad-based freelance communications consultant. She tweets @tazeen and blogs at

The writer is an Islamabad-based freelance communications consultant. She tweets @tazeen and blogs at

Every country has its fair share of misogynist politicians telling women not to drive or have abortions and to wear or not to wear a burqa or contest elections. However, Pakistan beats them all with the likes of Sheikh Alauddin, Member of the Punjab Assembly, who is not only openly misogynist, but is also ill-mannered enough to call his colleagues — female members of the Punjab Assembly — all kinds of offensive names. The names are so impolite that not only did some of the TV channels refuse to air his tirade against women MPAs uncensored, but the Speaker of the Punjab Assembly, Rana Muhammad Iqbal, even had to request that those nasty bits be removed from the records.

Female MPAs protested against his spiel about the non-virtuous nature of his female colleagues but when he refused to stop, Seemal Kamran, an MPA from the Pakistan Muslim League-Q, threw a shoe at Alauddin and all hell broke loose. Ms Kamran was barred from entering the assembly premises by the speaker the following day and was involved in a skirmish with the security guards. Later, when she tried to file an FIR against Sheikh Alauddin for harassment and misconduct at the workplace, she was told that an FIR can only be filed against an MPA after directions from the Speaker of the Assembly.

It is sad to realise that misogyny has seeped so deep in our society that a woman as powerful as one sitting in a provincial assembly cannot file a report against a co-worker for workplace misconduct and harassment, despite video evidence. It is ironic that an institution that is supposed to make laws for workplace harassment houses some of its worst offenders who have no qualms in calling their colleagues, among other things, “maut ke kuwo-on mein nachnay wali aurtain”.

While some TV channels practised restraint and did not air the abusive language of Shaikh Alauddin, other TV channels aired selective footage — that of Seemal Kamran throwing a shoe at Alauddin — but did so with sensational copy. They did not show the abusive and misogynist behaviour and the speaker’s lack of response, which prompted the incident. People who have witnessed the assembly’s proceedings say that Kamran’s response may seem a little over the top but the women in the Punjab Assembly are only returning the favour after putting up with four years of verbal and physical abuse during assembly sessions. No wonder legislation against misogynist practices and domestic violence runs into snags repeatedly; it is because our assemblies are full of people who consider misogyny a way of life.

It is also to be noted that Shiekh Alauddin’s rant against female MPAs has openly mocked the constitutional provision of reserved seats for women by calling them the group that violates the sanctity of the House. The Election Commission of Pakistan should promptly take notice of this if it wants its authority as the supreme body of the electoral process to be respected.

Women’s rights groups demanded action against Sheikh Allauddin for using abusive language against female members of the House on June 20. This is an appropriate demand but it is not just limited to the actions of one man; the incident represents a deeper-rooted mindset that cannot accept women in public spaces or in positions of power. We must condemn people like Alauddin for their reprehensible behaviour. Women’s rights groups, in particular, need to look for ways to redress the way we view women in public spaces and in positions of power and deal with this pervasive misogyny.

Published In The Express Tribune, June 23rd, 2012.

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Reader Comments (17)

  • Ali tanoli
    Jun 23, 2012 - 12:21AM

    This Allaudin ka chragh should be send it to american boots clus where he learn some women respect.


  • M Baloch
    Jun 23, 2012 - 12:22AM

    I wish you had written with same passion what MQM buddy did to a female (literally beaten her with a belt ) in Karachi local body assembly but oh my wishes …!


  • Masroor
    Jun 23, 2012 - 12:36AM

    What wrong did Sheikh saab do? He has the right to express his opinion despite what the secular fundamentalists may think.


    Jun 23, 2012 - 3:53AM

    @Masroor: Regardless of his opinion, he should not have used such market-porter language on the floor of the assembly. It is extremely unbecoming of him as a legislator, as a dignified man and above all a Muslim. His use of such bad language took away whatever merit he wished to convey in his argument.

    As an elected representative and a public figure we need to hold all legislators to a higher set of moral etiquette and Sheikh Alauddin and the other legislators’ conduct (both males and females) in the Punjab Assembly was most disappointing in all aspects.


  • Haris Chaudhry
    Jun 23, 2012 - 4:32AM

    Mansoor says : “What wrong did Sheikh saab do? He has the right to express his opinion despite what the secular fundamentalists may think.”

    Whats wrong when people express opinions about Islam and our Prophet in the west that we dont like under the same “right of expression”, that you seem to so dearly uphold that the whole ‘fundamentalist’ clan fo your ilk starts pelting stones and burning police stations and killing innocent people in the name of ‘protection’ of our values…

    The problem with us in general and you in particular is that we are the worst type of hypocrites globally. When it suits us we hide behind ‘right and freedom of expression’ to further our own stone-age views on women and minorities and when we feel offended by the slightest criticism on what is dear to us, we froth at mouth and are ready to kill others for hurting us ..

    See the irony.. ?

    BTW also Mansoor- When was the last time a ‘secular fundamentalist’ was accused of blowing up buses, forcing people to conform to his views coercively, blacking traffic and burning flags , supporting the creation of a parallel government, calling others non-muslin and always blaming violence towards innocent through some scriptures” !!

    You would love to bag secularists but we dont go around committing acts of violence or terror..

    Haris Chaudhry


  • alicia
    Jun 23, 2012 - 10:12AM

    @M Baloch
    She actually did a piece on that in her blog which I read.

    But I like your selectiveness. So you really are not worried about a MPA calling women prostitutes because they dares to question the stature of Shahbaz sharif? and bring up an incident that happened years ago.


  • sajid
    Jun 23, 2012 - 10:20AM


    Is using “bazaari” language in a public space like that ok for you? I remember once a ANP member said something like the time for Allah ‘o’ Akbar is over and its the time for science and technology. Everyone in Pakistan was doubled up in rage over that including me . No one cared about his right to freedom of expression. But when it comes to a Parliamentarian calling women prostitutes the freedom of expression comes in for people like you.

    BTW what is the punishment in Islam for characterizing chaste women like the MPA did?


  • who what
    Jun 23, 2012 - 11:02AM

    I have read reports of allegedly offensive remarks and shoe throwing. I do not know what the male MPA Alauddin said, not having seen the video. Perhaps someone can transcribe what he said and a transcript can be posted here. His remarks may have provoked the shoe throwing incident.

    Everything that happened is sad. As a Punjabi, it is sad for me to see the way MPAs have been behaving in the Assembly not just in this latest bout but even before. The conduct and behavior is most unbecoming for representatives from all parties: N, Q, P.

    They need to be role models, not maajhas.Recommend

  • A.
    Jun 23, 2012 - 1:09PM

    @Who What

    I believe his language was so vulgar that it was deleted from assembly proceedings. Tv channels also refused to air it. The part that has been published is the tamest part of his whole rant.

    And I read somewhere that the only reason he said all this was because some women MPA’s were disagreeing with Shahbaz Sharif.


  • M Baloch
    Jun 23, 2012 - 2:57PM

    She always praises MQM and has never written against MQM on the subject. It is the writer’s selectivity not mine who you should love the most. Please share the blog link, I really hope you would!


  • alicia
    Jun 23, 2012 - 4:11PM

    @M Baloch
    There you go.
    link text

    I have no idea who she is though. I just enjoy reading her blog sometimes.


  • Mujhay hay hukm-e Azaan....
    Jun 23, 2012 - 4:15PM

    @Harris Chaudary:

    Right of expression is east doesn’t mean that we start hurtling abuse at the noble people……it should only mean that we should raise voice against injustice

    & raising voice against injustice is considered the best of Jihad in Islam…….and preached much before west understood the freedom of expression


  • Jun 23, 2012 - 4:25PM

    @M Baloch:

    “Happy now?”


  • Suraj
    Jun 23, 2012 - 4:48PM

    As long as the women treated as a commodity in the society, this kind of incidents do happen.. Nobody can stop it..


  • Mirza
    Jun 23, 2012 - 7:57PM

    This Op Ed is right on target on the subject most Pakistani men do not want to talk about. It is a shame that a leader of PML can get away with these kinds of remarks and not even be condemned by any leaders. It is this tolerance and acceptance of such behavior that is the root cause of injustices in the society. Even in the West, women did not have a right to vote till they stopped accepting this discrimination. Let us stand up against these injustices and inequalities otherwise there would be more stories like M. Mai and acid throwing. Most people do not understand why some secular parties win elections in Pakistan despite all odds, because majority of women, minorities and smaller sects vote for them.


  • S. Zafar Iqbal
    Jun 23, 2012 - 11:26PM

    Those who insult women are actually venting their own deep-rooted personal feelings towards their mothers. In fact, they are saying, that is how they regard their own mothers. They are abusing no one but themselves, and are, thus, revealing their true faces.

    Anyone who stoops so low as to hurl abuses on women — or men, for that matter—clearly deviates from the norms of Islamic etiquette. For our Prophet (peace be upon him) taught us, with his own conduct, to be courteous to women (and men) and treat them with respect, and accord them the dignity that Allah has bestowed upon them as human beings.

    Those who flippantly disregard the Prophet’s way have clearly chosen to be the partisans of Satan, in open rebellion against Allah and his Prophet (pbuh). Recommend

  • Ashutosh
    Jun 24, 2012 - 1:01AM

    Dear Ms. Javed,
    What scared me most in your article was your line “Female MPAs protested against his spiel about the non-virtuous nature of his female colleagues but …..”
    Why only female MPAs objected?
    Why did the male MPAs did not join-in?
    May be these male MPAs they not find such behavior objectionable enough….. or may there was no man in the assembly…. except for those “female MPAs, who stood up against such misogynist …


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