|Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan.|
Pakistan’ prime minister Imran Khan’s controversial comments earlier this week, linking women’s clothing choices to sexual violence, has erupted a sea of controversies in the country. Civil society groups and activists in Pakistan have cried out in outrage over the prime minister’s remarks which pinned the blame for rape and sexual assault squarely on women themselves.
Noting that these remarks are indicative of “victim-blaming”, human rights campaigners have called for a public apology from the prime minister. Incidentally, the latest controversial remarks from Imran Khan are the second time in the last two months where he drew severe condemnation for reducing sexual violence to a mere act of ‘temptation’.
Pakistan’s prime minister Imran Khan, in an interview with Axios’ on HBO earlier this week, said, “If a woman is wearing very few clothes it will have an impact on the men unless they are robots. It’s common sense.” Khan also talked about the concept of ‘purdah’ – a religious and social practice of female seclusion in some orthodox Muslim communities – as a means to avoid ‘temptation’ in society.
“… I said the concept of ‘purdah’. Avoid temptation in society. We don’t have discos here, we don’t have nightclubs. It is a completely different society way of life here. So if you raise temptation in society to a point — all these young guys have nowhere to go — it has a consequence in the society,” he said.
Decrying prime minister Imran Khan’s comments linking women’s attire to rape, as many as 16 civil society organisations in Pakistan demanded a public apology from him and said that it was an inexcusable statement from the head of government.
“We demand an immediate public apology from the Prime Minister and assurances that his highly flawed perception of how and why rape occurs does not inform the government’s attempts to tackle what is a serious and prevalent crime in Pakistan,” read a statement by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP).
Other civil society organisations in Pakistan also voiced similar concerns at a press conference held in Karachi on Thursday and said that prime minister Imran Khan would do well to understand that rape is an act of power, not a lack of sexual control. In addition to HRCP, these groups include — the Women’s Action Forum, Tehrik-e-Niswan, Aurat March, the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research, and others.
“Even a cursory glance at the news should make it painfully clear that survivors of sexual violence can include women, girls, men, boys, and transgender persons–and that such acts can occur in schools, workplaces, homes, and public spaces. Gender, age and attire do not ‘prevent’ rape any more than the time of day or the relationship between survivor and perpetrator,” the statement from the civil society groups added.