Pakistan has been getting in on the act when it comes to the hijab.
We have the Punjab Higher Education minister to thank for the initial 'gaffe'. Firstly, he announced his intention of wanting to make the hijab mandatory for women attending government colleges. No mention of parliamentary debate. Yet not content with this, he went for the double-whammy: 5 extra marks would be transferred from those students whose attendance records fell below 60 percent.
Not to be outdone, the PTI waded in with one of its lawmakers calling for the same, barring the five extra marksbut including private colleges. Yet credit where credit is due. The PTI side at least had the good grace to table a resolutionbefore the Punjab Assembly. Instead ofjust waving an invisible wand and wishing it was so. It is a shame, however, that the PTI move was overshadowed by the question of "did she or didn't she" forget to add a resounding "no" to the final draft. Or whethershe had committed a faux par of Oscar-worthy proportions and unwittingly submitted the wrong paper.
For all the unintentional humour to be derived from the entire debacle, the issue remains at heart a very serious one: the policing of women's bodies. It is not enough to brush this off as the folly of two political partieswho, at various points in the past,have had to publicly distance themselves from accusations of courting militant groups.
The so-called liberal secular elite would do well to remember this. For it is less than a year ago that Internet sensation, model and yes, feminist icon,QandeelBalcoh was murdered. Reportedly,she was murdered by a brother who could no longer take the taunting over her "vulgar" behaviour.
Even some of Pakistan's most well known liberals inadvertently fuelled this accepted narrative. For instance, Qandeel's murder was qualified with the sentiment that while Qandeelwas "no role" model, she deserved a better life and death. Sadly, this was not an isolated incident. The qualifier dictating that even though we didn't approve of her conduct doesn't mean her murder was justified is, to put it bluntly, more troubling than open calls to have the hijab introduced across colleges. At least the former is an open call for the policing of women's bodies. And as such, it is so much easier to challenge, even if on a superficial level. Whereas the latter represents a clear whitewashing of the facts.A young woman was killed. We either condemn it or we condone it. How hard can that be?
Governments must not tell women what to wear. It is not their job.