Outcry over Pakistan PM comments about women attracting sexual assaults

ISLAMABAD, 8 April 2021:

Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan is facing a barrage of criticism from human rights groups and feminists after suggesting that women who decline to wear a veil were contributing to an increase in sexual assault.

“Brooo what our PM @ImranKhanPTI said about women dressing can trigger men to rape, I really pray he apologise to women of Pakistan on national television,” prominent Pakistani blogger Husna Shaban wrote on Twitter.

During a live Q-and-A television interview with the public last weekend, Khan said Pakistani women should dress modestly to remove “temptation” because “not everyone has willpower”.

“If our religion gives us the concept of observing veil, then there is some philosophy behind it and the philosophy is to save the family system and to protect the society from such things,” the twice-divorced Khan said.

Khan, a former cricket star once known for a playboy lifestyle, added that “in any society where vulgarity is prevalent, there are consequences”. He assigned part of the blame for the “vulgarity” to Hollywood and Bollywood.

One of Khan’s ex-wives, Jemima Goldsmith, criticised the prime minister yesterday – citing a verse of the Quran that orders men to lower the gaze. “The onus is on men,” the British journalist and television producer said on Twitter.

The independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan also criticised Khan’s remarks and demanded an apology. “Not only does this display a baffling ignorance of where, why and how rape occurs, but it also lays the blame on rape survivors,” the commission said in a statement.

Hundreds of people and organisations have signed a declaration demanding Khan retract his comments, but he has not addressed the issue since his television appearance.

Sexual assaults against women and children have provoked outrage in Pakistan over the past few years. In one of the most controversial cases, a police commander wondered aloud in a televised interview year how the family of a woman raped on a highway in front of her two children had allowed her to go out at night.