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This woman scorned

Reem Wasay

While they staged rallies to bring the women’s liberation movement to the forefront in the West, we were being silenced into submission, while they rectified their divorce laws to grant an egalitarian position to the women who screamed for freedom, we were still battling with our polygamous traditions.

I am no fan of patriarchal mindsets; I rather admire the utopian concept of equal emancipation and I sure as hell am no devotee to the cause of anti-feminist deliberations, but I have to hand it to our high-strung politicians to bring me crashing down from my pedestal of double-gaited nobility to ask: why are women allowed to speak in parliament? Considering all the rubbish spewing forth by most of them whenever a pack of pencil pushers jostles together in what is commonly referred to as a meeting of the Assembly, why does one even bother waiting on the verdicts issued henceforth? That is not to say their male counterparts are any better but that ought to come as no surprise considering how men are, well, just being men.

In an uncalled for outburst by MPA Shahzadi Tiwana on how women parliamentarians parked comfortably on reserved seats were somehow less suited to their positions in the assembly than elected members such as herself, is remindful of just how petty and vindictive our politicians have become. Citing women who have travelled the cushier road by taking advantage of the reserved seats directive as somehow occupying the bottom-rung of the political ladder is a machete to her own mettle, considering that all allegations point to Ms Tiwana entering the political domain as a reserved seat holder during her stint with the Q-League faction. Possessing a feudal disposition is not becoming in this day and age of equal opportunities Ms Tiwana, especially when harnessing a public office where the affairs and afflictions burdened by the public ought to be of more sizeable concern. The term public ‘servant’ should be taken quite literally, lest you feel the diction in itself is beneath you. However, it must be noted that this snide remark was made in response to the claims of yet another female parliamentarian, Samina Khawar Hayat, of being verbally harassed in the arena of sexual referral by a male colleague (and we just passed a bill on?). It is funny how the assembly has become a soapbox for personal conflict and uncalled for vendettas, when the platform in itself is one of the most elemental in the government’s manifesto in approaching the grievances of the public. Although a trivial matter at best, this little adventure in frivolity illustrates perfectly just how affairs of the state and the citizen have been relayed to the backburner to make way for more ‘pressing’ manoeuvres in political mandates. Amidst credit card capers, allegations of bed-hopping to reach the top, attacks and counter-attacks on character flaws and legislation proposals to make your stomach churn – Chaudhry Abdul Ghafoor’s calling for a ban on a the mobile phone except for the privileged (read politicians) members of society – this is an Assembly worth castigating.

Although the male members of our Assembly are much more maudish in their leanings, views and overall expressions, in a male chauvinistic society where women have borne the brunt of intolerance and prejudice, to see our female representatives act in such a blockheaded manner is a right slap in the face of actual liberators of the embargo on female salvation.

Women the world over have fought for rights that have been too long in the making and too formidable in the coming. While they burned bras in the West, we were being burned alive by the men who owned us, while they staged rallies to bring the women’s liberation movement to the forefront, we were being silenced into submission, while they rectified their divorce laws to grant an egalitarian position to the women who screamed for freedom, we were still battling with our polygamous traditions. Finally, some vestige of equal opportunity seems to be emerging from the rubble that is gender discrimination in this part of the world, and we have women who are so far from indulging in intelligent dialogue and policy making that it makes me wonder if the whole women in politics bit is a sham to once again elevate the diluted aptitude of men. Think about it; if the women thrust in legislative designations prove themselves to be inept at possessing sound cerebral regulation, they will only enhance the bigoted opinions that men and society already enjoy: a woman’s place is in the home.

Pakistani women are some of the most violated and exploited in the world. Cultural conventions and age-old praxis have rendered us monopolised muppets upon whom ugly precedents have been set. Women who do not employ the indulgences forgiven the bourgeois are bartered and compromised like cattle when it comes to settling a male incited dispute, more than 300 women are killed to defend blighted family honour almost every year, young girls are married off to catheter carrying old men before they hit puberty lest they be mature enough to decide for themselves, and rape is a catchphrase frequently enlisted to subdue and overpower the wilfulness of women across the country’s landscape. Against such brazen odds, the Pakistani woman is still seen persevering and emerging as a force to be reckoned with.

It is sad, then, that, when she requires representation in the global circumstance, her spokesperson is someone who cannot seem to see beyond her own limited fixations. Closed minds will lead to dead ends and petty deviations will do nothing to set our already blemished human rights record straight. It is about time our ambassadors concentrated more on their own kiln. Lord knows we have had to battle men since time immemorial; we do not need women at the top if they are going to be remembered for nothing but their nuisance value. As we have proved, we deserve better than that.

The writer is a staff member and participant of the Salzburg Trilogue and an essayist and lecturer on interfaith discourse and social analysis. She can be reached at [email protected]

Source: Daily Times

Date:2/14/2010

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