June 22nd, 2021
By Rehan Piracha
Women activists, journalists, and lawmakers alike have reacted extremely strongly to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s remarks that ‘women wearing very few clothes’ are a temptation that leads to sexual crimes in society.
Asked in an interview with HBO about how the Prime Minister thinks what women wear has any effect on the temptation that leads to rape, Imran Khan replied, “If a woman is wearing very few clothes it will have an impact, it will have an impact on men unless they’re robots. I mean it’s common sense.” The interview was aired on Axios website on Sunday.
Interviewer Jonathan Swan also asked the prime minister to clarify his earlier remarks that vulgarity was to blame for the rise in cases of sexual violence in Pakistan, to which Khan replied, “It is such nonsense. I never said ‘veils’, this was never said. I said the concept of ‘purdah’ and the concept of purdah is to avoid temptation in society. We don’t have discos here, we don’t have nightclubs, so it is a completely different society, way of life here, so if you raise temptation in society to the point and all these young guys have nowhere to go, it has consequences in the society.”
Twitter users vented their disapproval of the prime minister’s remarks with the hashtag “#RapeApologistSelectedPM” that was trending with over 18,000 tweets on Tuesday.
ALL AROUND RAGE
For the second time in three months, Prime Minister Imran Khan has created controversy with his remarks of linking rape crimes with dresses of women. In an interview on live television in April, Imran Khan said, “This entire concept of purdah is to avoid temptation. Not everyone has the willpower to avoid it.”
Women legislators from the opposition Pakistan Peoples Party and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz called out the prime minister for highly irresponsible remarks.
“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,” PPP Senator Sherry Rehman wrote in her tweet.
“Does Imran Khan not know that by saying women should dress a certain way, he 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,” the PPP senator said.
Sindh Minister for Women Development Shehla Raza said PM Imran should focus on the issues being faced by the country instead of “keeping an eye on the women”.
The provincial minister said Imran Khan should not have said this while sitting on the seat of the prime minister of the country. Other women lawmakers of the Sindh Assembly also slammed the premier over his controversial remarks.
“The world got an insight into a mindset of a sick, misogynistic, degenerate & derelict 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,” said PML-N spokesperson Mariyum Aurangzeb in a tweet.
“Maybe the misogynist, degenerate can defend paedophiles and murderers, as he advocates for rapist after all men cannot be expected to control temptation. Just FYI Mr degenerate, self-control is a little thing upon which Allah places a great premium,” she added.
Journalist and anchorperson Asma Shirazi said that it was unfortunate that the prime minister had tried to repeatedly justify rapes in society by linking them to dresses worn by women. “The prime minister must understand that such statements by him could cause much damage,” she said in her news show.
Journalist Gharidah Farooqi described herself to the premier’s words as being ‘disgusted’, ‘appalled’ and ‘outraged’.
“Strongly condemnable. No, Mr PM Khan, women clothing is NOT responsible for temptation leading to rape/assault/violence. ABSOLUTELY NOT! This is victim-blaming and giving a pass to men. Don’t insult victims. Don’t justify rape as temptation,” she said in a tweet.
Anchor Beenish Saleem said she was shocked to hear these remarks made by the PM for the second time in recent months.
“I fail to understand how the holder of the office of PM is bent upon justifying the most heinous crime of society and the beasts perpetrating them,” she said. “Isn’t Imran Khan given fellow males a free rein to do whatever they wish with women on the pretext of dresses worn by them,” she added.
Referring to the recent case of Mufti Azizur Rehman who was arrested for molesting a student, anchor Amber Shamsi took jibes at the prime minister by tweeting: “Because the Mufti “wasn’t a robot”?
In her tweet, she said the rape culture can’t be reduced to the ‘men are beasts’ and ‘what women shouldn’t wear’ argument.
Citing the rape of a 15-year-old girl in Toba Tek Singh, journalist Mehmal Sarfaraz in her tweet posed the question: “Were these minor girls wearing “very few clothes”?
“The Prime Minister repeating his victim-blaming narrative, which paints Pakistani men as uncontrollable beasts for an international audience and yet people like myself are accused of hating men and giving the country a bad name,” tweeted sociologist Nida Kirmani.
Legal advisor to the International Commission of Jurists, Reema Omer called the PM’s remarks shameful. “Disappointing and frankly sickening to see PM Imran Khan repeat his victim blaming regarding reasons for sexual violence in Pakistan. Men are not “robots”, he says. If they see women in skimpy clothes, they will get “tempted” and some will resort to rape,” she tweeted.
“Men on Twitter today are giving rape threats to “punish” women critical of the PM’s interview and to “teach them a lesson” while at the same time, they are arguing men perpetrate rape to satisfy their sexual urge The grotesque irony here is unmistakable,” she added later.
Lawyer and human rights activist Imaan Zainab Mazari-Hazir said this was not the first time the prime minister has made such insensitive, ignorant and incorrect remarks on sexual violence and rape. “For the PM to have such a warped understanding of the causes of sexual violence is embarrassing, problematic and simply not acceptable,” she tweeted.
STRUGGLING TO DEFEND
Responding to the outcry, Dr Arslan Khalid, focal person to PM on digital media, claimed that the prime minister’s remarks had been quoted out of context. He shared an unedited version of the PM’s interview to allow viewers to fully understand what the prime minister said in the interview.
“Again selective and out of context tweeting of what he actually said by subtracting the part where he talked about what kind of society we live in and about the sexual frustration in the society,” the focal person on digital media tweeted.
Similarly, Maleeka Bokhari, parliamentary secretary on law and justice, said the Pakistan Tehrik Insaf ruling government has passed the most progressive anti-rape law and women inheritance law on instructions of the prime minister. “For the first time Rs 100 million have been allocated in a budget for implementation of anti-rape law,” she tweeted.