October 23, 2023
By Maryam Missal
Women rights activists and female journalists among many others have strongly condemned the derogatory remarks made by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo Mian Nawaz Sharif at his homecoming rally held at the Greater Iqbal Park on Saturday.
It was also clear that the comments, which gave the appearance of being vague, were actually directed towards Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s women workers.
In his first address in Pakistan since his return after a four year self-imposed exile, Sharif praised the women participants of the PML-N rally, saying, “No one here is dancing to drum beats,” and urged the audience to grasp the meaning behind his statement. Despite the clear provocation towards PTI, he did not explicitly name any political group. This parallels his earlier criticism in 2017 of women supporters at a PTI rally.
— PTI (@PTIofficial) April 29, 2017
Organisers of Aurat March Karachi took to social media to voice their concerns, asserting that Sharif had reduced women’s political involvement to a mere ‘punchline’. They called on Sharif to transcend his antiquated views and embrace a more progressive perspective.
Bohat khoob! Aik baar phir Nawaz Sharif, PML-N ke sarbarah ne siyasi mukhalifat mein khawateen ki siyasi sargarmiyon pe sasti juggat ki. Unhon ne abhi tak yeh nahi seekha ke khawateen ko ‘achi’ aurat aur ‘buri’ aurat mein taqseem karna pathron ke zamanay ka tareeqa-e-kar hai. 1/3 pic.twitter.com/c947nAGSvO
— Aurat March – عورت مارچ (@AuratMarchKHI) October 22, 2023
“Freedom from slut-shaming, freedom from victim-blaming — it’s our right, freedom!” the Aurat March organisers stated in a tweet, highlighting the importance of respect and equality for all individuals, regardless of their chosen pursuits.
This incident has sparked a renewed conversation about the treatment of women in politics and the need for a more inclusive and respectful discourse within the political sphere. The Aurat March’s stance reflects a broader movement towards dismantling gender-based discrimination and advocating for equal opportunities for women in all aspects of society.
‘Misogyny has always been part of Pakistani politics’
Activist Sheema Kermani said Sharif’s remarks were ‘extremely derogatory and misogynist’. In a conversation with Voicepk.net, the feminist voiced her concerns and said that one does not expect a serious politician to make such sexist remarks.
“Misogyny has always been part of Pakistani politics, but to shame women who enjoy dance and music is absolutely not acceptable. To categorize women as those who listen silently and [PTI’s women supporters] those who dance and sing reeks of patriarchal misogyny, and hatred towards, women the arts of music and dance, and those women who sing and dance.”
‘Women should not be targeted to score political points’
Journalist and political analyst Afshan Masab told Voicepk that it seems for political parties in order to target PTI, they must target its women.
“Women are half our population. They should not be targeted to score political points,”
she said, mentioning that as the PML-N has a strong women supporter base as well as women in their leadership, they should refrain from promoting regressive ideas.
“If your party has evolved, your statements and your ideology should also evolve,” said Masab while referring to female leaders in PMLN who have driven the party politics in recent years.
‘Dance as a tool of expression’
Executive Director of AGHS Legal Aid Cell Nida Aly commented on Sharif’s statement that his remarks were disappointing as the country expects a lot from him and his remarks were welcoming of verbal or physical abuse towards women who use dance as a tool of expression.
“It is disappointing if you identify women and shame them for certain kinds of behaviour when men are doing the same thing,” she pointed out. “I think we are at a point in time, where women need to be encouraged to come forward. And if he [Nawaz Sharif] does not like anything, at best he should ignore it rather than voice it out to a rally of thousands of people,” said Aly while talking to Voicepk on the matter.
Senior journalist Munizae Jahangir said she found such remarks from a national leader surprising.
“He needs to encourage women’s participation in democratic processes and to attend and be part of their rallies. He should know that whenever women raised their voices for their rights, even dictators had to back off,”
Jahangir added that she believes that dancing in rallies is an expression of happiness and if men have the liberty to dance at rallies to the beat of a dhol, then women should also have the freedom to express themselves.
‘We demand dignity’
Sheema Kermani put forth an important demand that,
“women are almost 50 per cent, perhaps even more, of the population of Pakistan and we deserve – no, not at all – we demand dignity from those who are our rulers. I think Mr. Nawaz Sharif should take those words back,” she said demanding an apology from the party chief.”