KARACHI, Jan 25, (AFP) – A Pakistani female lawmaker threatened to self-immolate after she was harassed by male colleagues in parliament, telling AFP that the widely-publicised incident shows how laws to protect women are not being enforced.
Nusrat Sahar Abbasi, an MP in Sindh province, spoke of her fury after provincial minister Imdad Pitafi invited her to his private chambers on the floor of the assembly Friday in comments seen as sexual harassment in conservative Pakistan.
She said she protested strongly but the deputy speaker of the assembly, also a woman, refused to take any action.
A frustrated Abbasi was then pictured Saturday holding a small bottle said to be of petrol and threatening to self-immolate if action was not taken.
Federal party chiefs were forced to intervene as the incident exploded on social media, with Pitafi finally caving to the pressure and apologising in the assembly while offering Abbasi a chador, or veil, as a mark of his respect.
Abbasi told AFP Tuesday that the incident was now “over”, but that it poses a question on the implementation of laws protecting women from such sexual harassment.
“Their implementation is still a dream,” Abbasi said.
“Even us, the parliamentarians are not safe from gender biases and harassment,” she said.
Pakistani women have spent decades fighting for their rights in a deeply conservative country where so-called honour killings and acid attacks remain commonplace.
Pakistan has passed several laws to increase protections available to women in recent years, some at the provincial level, but critics have warned that without proper enforcement they will have little impact.
Last year a bill passed in Punjab province redefined “violence” to include “any offense committed against a women”, prompting an Islamic religious body to protest that men should be allowed to “lightly beat” their wives.