Marvi Sirmed, a senior journalist and human rights activist in Pakistan, is publicly voicing her fury after she was threatened with rape during a panel debate on the Nadia Mirza Show, a current affairs program broadcast on News One.
Ms Sirmed appeared as a guest alongside Hafiz Hamdullah, a conservative senator affiliated with the Islamic political party Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, and barrister Masroor Sahib, on a current affairs talk show.
According to local reports, the panel was debating the latest spate of honour killings across the country.
It is understood that at one point in the debate, Barrister Masroor criticised the Council of Islamic ideology for its silence on the issue, which prompted an irritated response from Hamdullah.
When Ms Sirmed came into the discussion, saying she agreed to an extent with Masroor’s remarks, the senator cut her off mid-sentence.
An argument then erupted and rapidly escalated.
Ms Sirmed took to Facebook to explain the incident, saying: “He started abusing me with the worst possible expletives. (He) called me a whore and said ‘tumhaari shalwaar utaar dooN ga aur tumhaari maaN ki bhi’.”
This loosely translates to “I will strip off your dress and will do the same to your mother too”.
She said that when she responded, telling him to do that to his own family, he tried to beat her.
She said he had to be held back while he was throwing punches at her, before News One security eventually appeared to take him away.
“And this religious merchant was fasting while he did all this,” she concluded, referring to the fact that it’s currently Ramadan.
Ms Sirmed’s posts about the ordeal has been shared almost 2000 times, and she has received an outpouring of support from commenters, telling her she is a strong woman and urging her to take legal action.
Following the incident, Ms Sirmed called upon the country’s Senate chairman Raza Rabbani to investigate Hamdullah’s alleged physical assault.
She also requested News One release CCTV footage showing the senator attempting to physically assault her, adding that his party nomination should be cancelled.
Sen Hamdullah is a controversial figure, known for unashamed violent outbursts on public television.
In March this year, he reportedly shouted a vulgar slur and stormed off the set of a separate news talk show following an onscreen fight with journalist and TV news anchor Fareeha Idrees.
Dr Arif Alvi, one of the country’s senior parliamentarians, said Hamdullah once “threatened (him) on air”, adding that he should be banned from television.
Ms Sirmed echoed this point on Twitter, saying “People like Hamdullah get legitimacy when anchors keep inviting them to their shows”.
She called on journalists and other media professionals to boycott him, saying: “I don’t think violent and vile people like Hamdullah should be taken on media. (An) opposing viewpoint is welcome, physical assault is not.”
She’s also shown that she’s not one to just sit back and take people’s sexist remarks.
One Twitter user wrote “Marvis Irmed come (sic) on TV in half-naked dress, such females should be banned on TV”. She retweeted him and wrote back: “Really? When did that happen? Or is it just a turbulent flight of your imagination?”
When another user accused her of “blindly humiliating the whole community”, she responded: “I do not take Hamdullah’s expletives silently.”
Violence against women is an endemic social issue in Pakistan, with wives and daughters often treated as domestic property.
Honour killings, acid attacks, bride burnings, child marriages, and sexual and domestic abuse are commonplace, yet these crimes are grossly under-reported.
The United Nation’s Gender Inequality Index puts Pakistan 147th in a list of 188 countries.
A 2014 report by the Aurat (Woman) Foundation, a women’s rights group based in Islamabad, said that every day of the year, six women were murdered, six were kidnapped, four were raped and three committed suicide.
They also reported as many as 7010 cases of violence against women in the province of Punjab. These figures do not include dowry-related violence and acid attacks; crimes which are also serious and frequent.
According to Pakistan’s independent Human Rights Commission, nearly 1100 women were killed in Pakistan last year by relatives who claimed they had ‘dishonoured’ their families.
In most of these cases, the victim is usually murdered by a close male family member.
In March this year, a landmark bill was enacted criminalising all forms of violence against women, which diehard extremists made several attempts to block.
Watch the live rape threat video