KARACHI: PML-N leader Khawaja Asif is once again in hot water for using sexist and derogatory language while referring to women from the opposition PTI.

During Tuesday’s joint sitting of parliament, responding to cri­ticism from parliamentarians over the handling of legislation and the “bulldozing” of bills, the defence mi­nister made a reference to former prime minister Imran Khan’s tenure, recalling past instances of bills being pushed through the legislature.

“Depraved women should not lecture on chastity,” he went on to say. The livestream of NA proceedings captured the outburst, which also prompted a swift reaction from wo­­men members present in the house.

But an undeterred Mr Asif only escalated the situation further by stating that if he were to say anything else, the opposition would try to play the “woman card”.

He also denigrated the women parliamentarians from the PTI, referring to them as the “remains” and “ruins” of Mr Khan. He then pointed towards the PTI benches, declaring, “This is the garbage left behind by the PTI chief, which has to be cleaned.”

At the time, PTI senators Zar­qa Taimur, Sania Nishtar, Falak Naz Chitrali, and Fawzia Arshad were present in the house.

The women parliamentarians responded strongly, rising from their seats and demanding that Mr Asif retract his offensive and demeaning words.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time the PML-N leader has been called out for his blatant sexism on the floor of the house.

In 2016, he faced criticism from opposition lawmakers for offensive remarks targeted at PTI’s Shireen Mazari. Then, the next year, he also had similar choice words for Firdous Ashiq Awan.

His remarks drew scorn from women across all walks of life. Im­­aan Zainab Mazari, whose mother had been at the receiving end of one of Mr Khawaja’s jibes, tweeted: “The audacity with which he repeatedly hurls derogatory comments at women — that too, on the floor of the house — is sickening.”

Women in media also condemned the incident.

“Partly, this ugliness reveals the general perception of male parliamentarians who consider women legislators as less legitimate and less deserving members of the house. And partly of course our cultural views lead to such outbursts — where women are only to be respected if they are wives, daughters or other relations,’ senior journalist Arifa Noor told Dawn.

“Working women who want to navigate the world as independent individuals face abuse everywhere and the Parliament is no exception. I can only hope a you­nger generation of politicians is able to change this culture in the parliament by ensuring that men who use gender based insults are penalised,” she added.

Anchor Absa Komal highlighted the fact that Mr Asif was a repeat offender when it came to using derogatory language for women on the floor of the house. She also highlighted how PTI Senator Zarqa Taimur rightfully expressed shock over such language from an experienced politician.

Nausheen Yusuf, a reporter covering parliament since 2007, also had similar views.

“I have seen Mr Asif making derogatory remarks [against everyone] regardless of gender. However, as a woman I condemn this because this qualifies as a personal attack, and it is a senior parliamentarian addressing an entire lot of politicians, policy-makers and leaders. The impact of such an act goes deeper than we think,” she said.

Published in Dawn, July 26th, 2023

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