They Don’t Get Out Much, You See

North West Frontier Province – what a fun place that must be.

Hundreds of thousands of women in various NWFP union councils (UCs) will be stopped from voting in the upcoming local council elections despite pressure by the Election Commission and government on jirgas to allow women to participate in the polls, Geo news channel reported on Tuesday. Tribal elder Haji Rahat Hussain said agreements to bar women from contesting and voting in the local council elections were signed by male candidates including nazims and naib nazims with a view to maintain law and order, the channel reported. “Traditionally, our women have always stayed away from elections and they are not even ready to step out of their homes,” he told Geo.

Isn’t that just a pip? Agreements to bar women were signed by male candidates – oh well that’s all right then. As long as the people not disenfranchised by this high-handed decision signed an agreement then everything is on the up and up – all legal and aboveboard. Swell. In the same manner, perhaps, the white candidates in elections in the Mississippi Delta in the early ’60s could have ‘signed agreements’ to bar blacks from voting, and then all that fuss and ruckus, and all those tiresome murders, wouldn’t have happened. And the reason of course would have been exactly the same (it always is) – a view to maintain law and order. You betcha.

And the loving concern is so touching, too. ‘Our women’ (as one might say our dogs or our sheep) ‘have always stayed away from elections’ – well yes I daresay they have, because you have always seen to it. Naturally they have. And ‘they are not even ready to step out of their homes’ – there again: yes, no doubt, because you have seen to it that they wouldn’t be. Keep people confined and locked up, uneducated and inexperienced, and what do you know, you end up with people who are a little shaky on their pins and a bit bashful around strangers. Therefore it follows that they must always stay that way. Of course.

The BBC has more.

The Chief Minister of North West Frontier (NWFP) Province, Akram Durrani, denied that tribal elders had prevented women from voting in some parts of the province. Tribal elders had banned women from voting in three councils in the province, but the government had persuaded local jirgas – or tribal councils – to lift the ban late on Wednesday. Nonetheless, reports from the area suggested that women were not turning out to vote in large numbers. In one women’s polling station in a suburb of Peshawar, capital of NWFP, not a single vote was cast in the first five hours of polling, the BBC’s Haroon Rashid in Peshawar says. Human rights activists are demanding the cancellation of election results in such districts.

Adam Tjaavk tells me the World Service reported that ‘women in NWFP had been asked (by men) not to vote as the weather is too warm for them – standing a long time in long queues would cause them to remove clothing that would cause a public disturbance!’ Right – so they’ll have to hope for cooler weather some other year then. But not too cool, or they might shiver, which would cause minor riots. And not raining, or their clothes would get wet, and you know what ah ah ah ah pant pant pant. And not too dark because in the dark women ah ah ah ah puff puff puff sweat.

There’s a bit in Persepolis 2 like that. (No doubt there were some four million bits in Marjane Satrapie’s life in Iran that were like that.) Marjane is running to catch a bus one afternoon and some uniformed berk shouts at her to stop running. She doesn’t even pay attention at first, because why would he be shouting at her. After the third or fourth time, she stops, bewildered – and he earnestly explains that she must not run because when she runs – and he gestures helpfully with both hands, to illustrate the way her bum moves. ‘Well don’t look at me then!!’ she shouts in his face, enraged.

Same for those lines outside the polling places. Look away, take a cold shower, get a nice hobby; whatever; but leave the damn women alone.

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