Sherry Rehman fires back at PTI senator for appropriating women's oppression as 'culture'

17 Jan 2020


"You cannot condemn a whole rights movement in the name of culture," says the PPP Senator. — DawnNewsTV/File
"You cannot condemn a whole rights movement in the name of culture," says the PPP Senator. — DawnNewsTV/File

PPP Senator Sherry Rehman on Friday clapped back at Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Senator Mohsin Aziz for comments he made regarding women's rights movements on the floor of the house.

While commenting on a report by the National Commission on the Status of Women, Aziz had said that reports such as these do not represent women from far-flung parts of the country, rather, they reflect the sentiments of women "who already have rights".

"NGOs fund movements which raise slogans like mera jism meri marzi, MeToo and apna khana khud garam kero. These slogans are against our culture, religion and teachings," the PTI leader went on to say.

He added that while he is against honour killings, "honour is a part of our religion" and women should "play a part according to religious teachings".

Responding to Aziz, Rehman said: "When it comes to women’s rights, I expect all parties to adopt a bipartisan approach in parliament. You cannot justify honour crimes or any other oppression — let alone condemn entire rights movements in the name of culture."

She added that members of parliament should not "play the religion and culture card because our religion guaranteed women better rights in the 7th century [than what they have today] and [with the passage of time] these rights should have grown in response to the changes in society."

"It is our fault that women have not been given the freedom, equality and power that we should have by now. We [women] are neither a second [lesser] gender nor will we condone honour crimes in this house”.

“Women’s rights are violated regularly in our society, but [being from] a progressive party like the PPP ... I can proudly say that most of the progressive legislation in the country today has been brought by our party or by women legislators [in the house],” she said.

Thanking women who played a pivotal role in movements for their rights over the decades, Rehman said, “Those women spearheaded the women’s movement with unprecedented bravery, offering invaluable sacrifices as they faced a dictator like Zia ul Haq. The PPP’s name was attached to this movement as well, as it too was led from the front by a woman and Pakistan’s twice-elected prime minister, Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto.

"The civil society at the time — of which I was a member — was facing police lock-ups and stern resistance. But we were not asking for rights just for us — we have not been fighting for ourselves.

"We have been fighting for those who are without privilege or power. Honour crimes are mostly faced by those living in deeply vulnerable situations, in rural or tribal areas or situations where they don’t know their rights or are unable to exercise them — with no access to lawyers or justice."