Khawaja Asif, our indefensible defence minister, needs schooling on gender equality

Khawaja Asif, our indefensible defence minister, needs schooling on gender equality

He claims there was no gendered undertone to his attacks on his female colleagues when he called them "characterless" and "filth".
Updated 28 Jul, 2023

After the backlash for his abhorrent remarks on the floor of the Senate a couple of days ago, our Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, who, by the way, has a sad history of passing sexist remarks in parliament, has come up with a typical explanation, one worthy of a misogynist of his cadre.

Khawaja Asif claims that when he referred to his women colleagues as “characterless” and “filth” the other day, there was no gendered undertone to his words, which is to say that he didn’t describe them as such because they were women.

And then, in another blatant display of moral and intellectual buffoonery, he went on to say that as proponents of gender equality, women should develop thicker skin against such remarks because, when faced with similar attacks, men are not seen protesting. This argument, which is a product of sheer ignorance, is just a notch away from the wanton “meninist” garbage that is thrown around every time a man is called out for his misogyny. If men can take it, why not women, they ask. Is it not discrimination against men that the rules are different for them? No, it is not.

Let’s take this opportunity to school Mr Asif and the many in his ranks about how after centuries of systemic oppression, institutionalised discrimination and maltreatment stemming from societal norms and prejudices, a simple application of “equality” does not remedy the situation and absolve you of responsibility.

Recognise your privilege, Khawaja Asif. You were born a man, a Punjabi, and a Sunni Muslim in a society where women have to struggle for the most basic of rights, where sexual violence against women remains unchecked, and where their “honour” (daaman, as you said in parliament) hangs by the thread of male approval.

Let me ask you this as a man aware of his privilege — can a woman politician in our society survive allegations of licentious behaviour like so many of your male colleagues who continue to move about unscathed despite damning video and audio leaks? Is this the pseudo ‘equality’ you’re talking about? It has to work both ways, Mr Asif. Till the day a woman in Pakistan can also shrug off a scandalous video leak without losing her status in society (and politics), please stop with your fake equivalences which do nothing more than unveil your lack of empathy.

Rather than hide behind the façade of ‘gender equality’, it is time men like you recognise their privilege and concede that even decades of affirmative action or positive discrimination would not be enough to balance the scales.

So, Mr defence minister, instead of trying to defend the indefensible, it is better to apologise for your words and lead by example.