Female legislators in the Sindh Assembly are like fillers in newspapers. Considered to be material of secondary importance, fillers usually do not make for smashing headlines nor do they get prime space. Their importance is based on the fact that they fill space left by the more important stories.
As it turned out, the story of the day in the Assembly was the walk-out staged by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and whatever little of the opposition is there over the matter of inflation.
While they were gone, legislators from the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) lambasted the MQM for having not listened to stand-in Speaker Shehla Raza’s desperate plea to stay.
The MQM and the combined opposition returned to the session when Women’s Development Minister Tauqeer Fatima Bhutto was in the middle of her speech on the necessity of empowering female home-based workers.
Bhutto tried to carry on amid the cacophony of legislators settling down, but Senior Minister for Education and Literacy, Pir Mazharul Haq, asked her to stop and even gestured to the stand-in Speaker to “understand.”
Understand she did, and the matter of placating the PPP’s major coalition partner took precedence over women’s issues.
Bhutto and other female legislators started talking again after the PPP and the MQM were friends, but by now, the male objective of the session was almost complete. With wanton abandon, the men chatted among themselves till the end of the session.
A PPP female legislator commented that men expected the women to sit through their resolutions, but started chatting whenever women moved a motion pertaining to women. In an irony of sorts, senior ministers started leaving the session while the women were still presenting their case.
After all, women were not the story of the day in an assembly of patriarchs. They were merely fillers.