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May 9, 2019

Speakers urge women to react strongly to any sexist comment they come across

Karachi

May 9, 2019

While recent movements against gender disparities and sexual harassment have become table talk around the globe, the discussion on such themes has not matured in Pakistan where its media and people are still unable to identify dissimilarities between sexism and misogyny.

“People of Pakistan are being vocal about any unfair treatment against them, but sexism and misogyny are often commingled up to this time. While the two terms seem similar but they are, in terms of their effects, different from each other and they stand on their own,” Tasneem Ahmer, executive director of Uks Research Centre, said during the fourth event of a series, ‘Dialogue for Change’ (DfC), at the Uks office.

“Misogynists are always sexists, but sexists are not always misogynists,” she explained. A session titled ‘Understanding Sexism and Misogyny’ discussed sexism and misogyny in the media. Highlighting Prime Minister Imran Khan’s sexist comment against Pakistan Peoples Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto in which the former called the latter ‘Sahiba’, Ahmer said when leaders said such sexist things on a platform where they were heard by millions of people, it appeared that all efforts and movements against sexism had gone futile.

While discussing checks on the media content, senior journalist Mazhar Abbas said media persons, including talk show hosts and guests, should act responsibly and also keep in mind that whatever they said affected the viewers and influenced their actions.

“Apart from Pemra, we need an independent media complaints commission where citizens and government can register their complaints. The commission should have all powers to deal with issues regarding the content of media.”

Senior journalist Uzma Al-Karim said a person could be sexist either intentionally or unintentionally and it could only be detected by its effect, but to eliminate sexism from our society, all the segments of society, especially the women, had to stand strong against any sexist or misogynistic comment they came across.

“A female politician is more likely to be criticised for what she wears and how she carries herself than a man. Someone may doubt that a woman can be a better professional than a man, yet they claim that they are not sexist.”

Ahmer said that they were unpacking a number of hidden and obvious issues and also bringing them out through the DfC. She added that they all had to work collectively and responsibly to make people aware that it was not right to stay quiet against any unfair treatment against them or anyone around them.

Mehvash Zaidi, an employee at a private bank, underlined institutional sexism, saying that she worked for the same number of hours and more efficiently than her male colleagues, but even then she had to hear comments like “yeh larki hai is say nahi ho paye ga [she is a girl and she would not be able to do it]” and “hum larkiyoun ko itnay he paisay daytay hain [we offer only this much salary to girls]”, until she started giving people shut-up calls.

“We have to first realise that sexism is not acceptable and a woman can work as good as a man can, and she deserves equal pay and equal rights just like men do. We should stop people straight away in their faces whenever they try to make you feel any lesser than them.”

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