Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s controversial remarks blaming women‘s clothing for the rise in sexual violence has led to an outrage in the country with prominent leaders and activists condemning his comments.
Sharing a clip of Khan’s recent interview with Axios journalist Jonathan Swan, Parliamentary Leader of Pakistan People’s Party, Senator Sherry Rahman expressed her shock at the prime minister’s remarks.
“…no man has the right to blame women or how they dress, for violence, rape and crimes against women,” she tweeted.
Whether it’s our laws or even our religion,which is very clear that respect for women is the responsibility of the beholder,no man has the right to blame women or how they dress, for violence, rape and crimes against women. Shocked that our PM is doing this.1/2 pic.twitter.com/CB9kUE36sx
— SenatorSherryRehman (@sherryrehman) June 21, 2021
What did the Pakistani Prime Minister say?
In the interview, aired by HBO, on June 20, Khan said, “If a woman is wearing very few clothes it will have an impact on the man unless they are robots. It’s common sense.”
Earlier this year, in another interview with Geo News, Khan had made similar comments, stating that sexual violence was a product of ‘obscenity,’ which he described as a Western import.
Justifying his earlier remarks, Khan told Swan that he had spoken about ‘purdah’ as a way to avoid temptation. “We don’t have discotheques, we don’t have night clubs, so its a different way of life here. If you raise temptation in the society to a point and all these young guys have nowhere to go, it has consequences in the society,” he said.
Khan’s comments draw flak
Rehman asserted that with such remarks Khan is “giving oppressors and criminals against women a new narrative to justify their behaviour. There is NO justification for a prime minister to talk this way. Highly irresponsible and condemnable. (sic)”
Another politician and Sindh Minister for Women Development, Shehla Raza, said Prime Minister Khan should focus on the issues being faced by the country instead of “keeping an eye on the women”, news agency PTI reported.
Spokesperson for the Pakistan Muslim League Marriyum Aurangzeb also called out Khan on Twitter, stating that the “world got an insight into a mindset of a sick, misogynistic, degenerate and derelict IK (Imran Khan). It’s not women’s choices that lead to sexual assault rather the choices of men, who choose to engage in this despicable and vile crime.”
An editorial in Pakistani newspaper, Dawn, criticises the prime minister’s views: “Given his government has strengthened the law against rape and also expanded its earlier unrealistically narrow definition, Mr Khan clearly considers rape a serious offence that merits severe punishment. However, his understanding of the impulse that leads to it is simplistic, contradictory and illogical.”
Arguing that his views reflect the “prevailing mindset in society that reduces rape to a consequence of sexual frustration provoked by the victim’s appearance,” the editorial asserts that such remarks, appearing to “condone rape” from a figure of authority, “reinforces a dangerous narrative.”
Another editorial on The Express Tribune, “No sympathy for victims”, shines light on a recent case of sexual violence in Pakistan of a political leader assaulting a youth in a madrasa. “The victim in question was neither dressed ‘provocatively’ nor was he a woman, for those who still hold the notion that women are somehow responsible for rape.”
“One wonders if the PM spent any thought on what emerged and caused much furor just days prior,” the editorial states.
Lawyer and human rights professional, Reema Omar, expressed her disappointment at Khan’s comments over Twitter. “…frankly sickening to see PM Imran Khan repeat his victim blaming regarding reasons for sexual violence in Pakistan,” she said, adding that it was “a pity” that the “earlier outcry had no impact on him.”
Nuzhat S Siddiqi, a writer and sociologist, asserted in a thread on Twitter, “Those who rape, rape. A piece of cloth or the fear of Allah is no deterrent to them.”
“Every year of my life has been spent limiting myself in physical & personal ways to avoid getting raped. Dear PM @ImranKhanPTI – do u know what that feels like? (sic)” she added.
We cannot end rape if we keep finding scapegoats in time-of-the-night or size-of-clothing, especially not from the Prime Minister’s seat. You have the power to fix systems & change mindsets, PM @ImranKhanPTI – please don’t waste your time & words in further enabling what’s wrong.
— Nuzhat S. Siddiqi (@guldaar) June 21, 2021
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf jumps to PM’s defence
As Khan’s comments were condemned by politicians and social media users alike, the PTI party was quick to defend the Prime Minister’s comments, fielding its female leaders.
In a press conference in support of the PM, on Tuesday, Minister of State for Climate Change Zartaj Gul said the PTI government mobilised women for the first time in Pakistan, news outlet Geo Tv reported.
PTI member Maleeka Ali Bokhari stated that Khan has “set aside Rs 100 million in the budget for implementation of the anti-rape law.” “We are strong women and we have been strengthened by our leader Imran Khan,” she said.