Sexualization of politics is neither something new in the world politics nor in Pakistan. The current traditional as well as social media, however, has made this issue more apparent. Therefore, it deserves credit. Unfortunately, like other institutions of the state who have transgressed their due role, in my humble opinion, have over-reacted.
The question that ‘what should be or have been accepted norm of behavior on the part of media?’ needs to be explored from normative and empirical perspectives. I think Bo Rothstein can help us understanding masses as well as media’s behavior towards such complicated issues as harassment, which has occupied central stage of political communication in this country.
Rothstein is a professor of government and public policy at the University of Oxford. In his theory of quality of government, he holds that there are four types of behaviors. One, impartial behavior is a function of state institutions, and they are supposed to implement public policies, and implement laws without serving any specific interests. Second, though markets serve specific interests but they are opened to all kinds of people. Next comes interest groups which are composed of self-interested few individuals who are self-interested. Fourth is private sphere which includes friends, family, and clan (and personal relationship as well).
I think, it is this fourth sphere, that is shrinking day by day in Pakistan, and two reasons account for this—inter-personal conflicts, and extraneous interventions. As far as the latter is concerned, there are numerous instances when state institutions intervened into the life, liberty, and property of those who haven’t aligned with them. Though debates around such issues is a sign of healthy, as well as wealthy democracy, yet political personalities washing their dirty linens in the public serves neither to the current bleeding of democracy of Pakistan nor to any of the political parties. Either it is Ayesha Gulalai—Imran Khan’s or Ayesha Ahad—Hamza Shahbaz’s case, it is not the media who is legitimate forum to resolve this conflict.
Any of the parties to these conflicts should approach to the legitimate forums which may be parliamentary committees or courts. Quoting Rothstein again, only impartial inquiries in case of parliamentary committees or due process of law in courts, followed by punishing harassers would refrain them, and others like them, to repeat such acts. Otherwise, this sexualization of politics would squeeze space on young girls who aspire a career in politics.