More than a dozen women’s rights groups, including the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, in a joint statement, demanded an apology from Prime Minister Imran Khan for putting the blame of the country’s rape crisis on the victims.
The outrage came after the prime minister 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.”, in a recent interview by Axios journalist Jonathan Swan on the on-going “rape epidemic” in Pakistan.
He did not elaborate on what he meant by “few clothes”, in a country where the vast majority of women wear conservative national dress.
“This is dangerously simplistic and only reinforces the common public perception that women are ‘knowing’ victims and men ‘helpless’ aggressors,” the women’s rights groups said.
The politician Maryam Nawaz, who is the vice-president of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and daughter of the former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, said Khan was a “rape apologist” and that people who validated rape had the same mind-set as the perpetrators.
Kanwal Ahmed, a campaigner for women’s rights, tweeted: “Makes my heart shudder to think how many rapists feel validated today with the prime minister backing their crime.”
Weekend protests have been organised in the cities of Karachi and Lahore.
Earlier this year the prime minister was accused of “baffling ignorance” by one of the country’s top rights groups after he advised women to cover up to prevent rape.
His media team later insisted the comments in the national language of Urdu had been misinterpreted.
When questioned by Swan about his previous remarks about rape victims, Khan responded saying it was “nonsense” and he was instead referring to Islam’s “concept of purdah” which is to “avoid temptation of society”, often done through covering oneself.
Victims of sexual abuse are often viewed with suspicion and criminal complaints are rarely seriously investigated in Pakistan. Much of the country lives under a so-called “honour” code where women who bring “shame” on their families can be subjected to violence or murder.
The country regularly ranks among the worst places in the world for gender equality.
Nationwide protests erupted in 2020 when a police chief admonished a gang-rape victim for driving at night without a male companion. The French-Pakistani mother was assaulted in front of her children on the side of a motorway after her car ran out of fuel. (Source: The Guardian)