During National Assembly proceedings this Thursday, Leader of the Opposition Khursheed Shah was criticised by Speaker Ayaz Sadiq when he made a sexist remark about his female peers. What wasn’t immediately obvious is that Shah had the support of several female MNAs.
The issue arose when Speaker Ayaz Sadiq asked women lawmakers to quiet down or step outside to continue their conversation, after which Shah offered: “Do not ask these women to stop talking, speaker; they will fall ill if they don’t talk continuously.”
To this Ayaz Sadiq quickly replied: “This is not acceptable to me.”
However, lawmakers in the National Assembly had already begun to laugh at Shah’s comment despite it’ patronising nature, and it wasn’t only men who were laughing. In a new video of the proceedings several women present can be seen enjoying the snub, included former speaker Fahmida Mirza, who laughed heartily.
This highlights how prevalent sexism is – so prevalent that women who are lawmakers appear to have internalised sexism and now think it’s funny when legislators belittle their peers based on their gender.
The video corrects the common assumption that gender bias is only displayed by men. In a patriarchal system, bias against women is so deep-rooted that it can be displayed by any gender. For prevailing attitudes to change, adopting more progressive values is a burden both men and women must bear.
Fortunately, MNA Nafisa Shah took a stand against Shah’s inappropriate quip. She said she would stage a protest and asked why the speaker was only silencing women if men are also talking.
Later, in a conversation with the media, Khursheed Shah attempted to justify his comment by saying he was talking in a “lighter mood” and he wasn’t only singling out female MNAs but also women in general, including his own family members.
Does that make it better? No, not at all.