The Prime Minister of Pakistan has caused widespread outrage after he urged women to dress more modestly while addressing a surge in rape cases.
The former professional cricketer turned politician, 65, made the comments during a televised interview, where he said women should cover their bodies to avoid being attacked.
Taking a question from a caller, Prime Minister Khan was asked what the government was doing to address a rise in sexual attacks in Pakistan.
“The incidents of rape of women … (have) actually very rapidly increased in society,” he said.
Khan cited the Islamic concept of purdah, which means using veils and screens to obscure women from men.
“This entire concept of purdah is to avoid temptation; not everyone has the willpower to avoid it,” he said.
Khan said his government would be bringing in new laws to protect women from sexual assault – but added it was up to society to preserve women’s modesty.
The Prime Minister said a rise in rape indicated the “consequences in any society where vulgarity is on the rise”.
The comments sparked furious outrage, with women’s rights campaigners and activists in the country accusing the Prime Minister of “baffling ignorance”.
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Hundreds of people signed a statement circulated online on Wednesday, calling Khan’s statements “factually incorrect, insensitive and dangerous”.
“Fault rests solely with the rapist and the system that enables the rapist, including a culture fostered by statements such as those made by (Khan),” the statement read.
The Prime Minister was also lashed by The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, an independent rights watchdog, which said it was “appalled” by Khan’s “baffling ignorance”.
“Not only does this betray a baffling ignorance of where, why and how rape occurs, but it also lays the blame on rape survivors, who, as the government must know, can range from young children to victims of honour crimes,” the Commission said.
Former cricketer now more conservative
Khan has grown notably more conservative after leaving professional cricket to enter politics in 1996.
Following his nine-year marriage to Jemima Goldsmith from 1995, and a tempestuous nine-month marriage to former BBC newsreader Reham Khan which ended in 2015, the World Cup-winning star wed for the third time in 2018.
His third wife, Bushra Bibi, 47, Khan’s spiritual adviser, was fully veiled at the traditional Islamic ceremony, and commonly wears full hijab to cover her face during public appearances.
Following reports of her former husband’s comments on rape, Jemima Goldsmith tweeted yesterday (Wednesday): “I’m hoping this is a misquote/mistranslation. The Imran I knew used to say, ‘Put a veil on the man’s eyes not on the woman.’”
Khan faced criticism after another television appearance last year, when he failed to challenge a Muslim cleric’s claim that the COVID-19 pandemic had been unleashed because of the sins of women.
He has been accused of failing to tackle systemic prejudice towards women in conservative Pakistan, where honour killings remain common, preferring to attack the “vulgarity” of the west and the obscenities promoted by cinema in neighbouring India.
– with wires