The assemblies within a state are representative of how the population is at large. The mannerisms, gestures and remarks of the ministers are of great importance, especially because they represent a certain group of people and a certain group of ideas.

The mannerisms in our assemblies have been highlighting a very grave issue; one of sexism, harassment and derogatory remarks. One would expect that the ministers, who are backed by votes of the population, would be a little civilised, or would at least respect the position that they have been rewarded with; and hence, act responsibly. 

But this is not the case. What’s even more nerve racking is the shamelessness with which they defend their stance. Punjab Minister for Housing and Urban Development, Syed Haroon Sultan, refused to answer Nighat Nasir in Punjab Assembly this Thursday. His previous behaviour with the same female member of the house was also demeaning. However, according to him he was only being misunderstood. What this tells us is that Mr Sultan and many of his peers find casual sexist remarks funny. Their sense of humour is not appreciated however. Passing off inappropriate comments as jokes is one of the oldest tricks to absolve oneself of any blame or responsibility. They chose to ignore that their dealings with female lawmakers must be professional, and they are entitled to the same respect as everyone else.

Mr Haroon even tried to leave the session to show his disregard for the questions that were posed, before being summoned back by the speaker. No sitting minister leaves the assembly to protest and one can safely assume that Mr Haroon’s disdain would not have been this obvious had he been posed the same questions by a male member of the house.

Of course, ultimately, both male and female lawmakers have to ensure that every parliamentarian is equal, regardless of their gender. Currently, both sexes indulge in casual sexism because it is so acceptable in both the house and beyond it as well. This must change.

The only time that these offenders actually apologise or own up their behaviour is after an outcry on media platforms. If our officials fail to act decently unless explicitly asked to; they are not worthy of the positions that they hold.