Women lawmakers feel discriminated against in assembly
By Sadia Qasim Shah
PESHAWAR: The women members of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly, who are mostly elected on reserved seats, say they are not treated like their male elected counterparts and as a result get comparatively less time to put their views across.
“We are not decoration pieces; we are legislators and want to be treated as such,” said Noor Sahar, an MPA of the PPP on reserved seat from Malakand, while talking to this reporter.
She claimed that she was ‘snubbed’ by Speaker Kiramatullah Khan Chagharmati in the current session when she insisted to refer her question to the committee concerned.
“The Speaker warned me to stay quiet if you know what respect is,” she said.
When asked whether the women MPAs who complain of discrimination against them are true, Mr Chagharmati said: “Not at all. I don’t discriminate. If women take part in a constructive discussion I do not. I am a broad-minded person.”
But women MPAs say that male members of the provincial assembly are also not much different from the society when it comes to treating women. They claim that they have been facing gender discrimination.
PML-Q MPA Nighat Aurakzai says that when male MPAs stand up and demand perks and privileges they only demand it for the 99 elected members and leave the 25 women legislators who are part of the 124-member assembly.
“They (male members) are not willing to give us a chance. We have to snatch our right to speak,” she said and that it were the women members who strengthen the party at the grassroots, as they convinced a large number of women voters to support the party. However, she complained that the male members neglected their political achievements.
Noor Sahar claimed that most bills tabled by women members were resisted. The MPA said that she once tried to table a bill on health, but it was not passed. She said that in general the women legislators took the assembly proceedings very seriously while the male members indulged in gossips when women were debating an issue.
However, there are women MPAs who know how to get attention of the House and put their point of views across without any problem.
Zubaida Ihsan of the Awami National Party says that one should be aware of the culture and norms of the society and follow the rules, as one could not just speak out of turn at an inappropriate time in an inappropriate manner.
Munawar Sultana of ANP says that she speaks when the elders of the party allow them. “We work keeping in view our Pukhto
(code of life) and don’t just make a noise,” she says.
Another member Yasmin Zia of ANP says that most of the women MPAs are new in the assembly and have far less experience than their male counterparts. “I think it will take some time for them to polish their skills,” she said.