A fellow party leader’s recent trip to the US apparently left JI chief Sirajul Haq in shock as the former saw a couple split an ice cream bill equally amongst themselves. The JI chief, at a clerics’ conference in Peshawar, stated that he did not want a similar culture in Pakistan. He then went on to add that he didn’t want the promotion of a culture where a man didn’t even send ‘5 rupees’ on an ice cream for his wife. Clearly the JI chief hasn’t taken his wife out for ice cream in a long, long time otherwise he’d have known that you don’t get an ice cream stick, let alone a full ice cream, for that amount.  All jokes apart though, it saddens me to see that the leader of a political party has the audacity to pass such ridiculous comments. This shows the underlying mentality that happens to be the root cause of most problems in Pakistan’s patriarchal society.

It’s a shame that no matter what the situation, we expect a woman to be dependent on the man who is accompanying her. We expect women to never be equal to a man, no matter what. The JI chief’s comments reflect the deeply rooted insecurities that Pakistani men have, the biggest of them being a woman’s economic independence. His comments reveal how threatened gender equality makes an average Pakistani man feel.

Just in 2016, the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Gender Gap Report ranked Pakistan 143 out of a total of 144 countries on its gender inequality index. Pakistan happens to be the second worst country in the world for equal rights for women. It is worth noting that even a war torn country like Syria managed to perform better than Pakistan on the index. Sadly, comments such as the JI chief’s simply prove these findings accurate.

We live in a country where every day is a struggle for women to attain an equal status in society. Be it at work, or at home, managing to stay at the same level as their male counterparts is a routine struggle for all women. Women’s career choices remain limited to this day owing to the presence of gender discrimination. In a situation like this, the least that political party leaders can do is refrain from encouraging gender discrimination.

There are far more important and pressing issues that religious men need to be addressing at this moment. Our country has become hell for minorities, mobs kill people every other day in the name of religion and women are denied their basic rights. It would perhaps be a good idea for our clergymen to address these instead of talking about irrelevant and highly nonsensical ‘issues’.