Women’s rights advocates and activists in Pakistan have accused Prime Minister Imran Khan of “baffling ignorance” after the cricketer-turned-politician blamed an increase in rape cases on how women dress.
Khan, an Oxford graduate, said a spike in rapes signaled the “consequences in every society where vulgarity is on the rise” in a weekend interview on live television.
“The incidents of rape of women … [have] actually very rapidly increased in society,” he said.
To avoid temptation, he urged women to cover up.
“This entire concept of purdah is to avoid temptation, not everyone has the willpower to avoid it,” he said, using a term that can refer to modest dress or the segregation of the sexes.
Hundreds of people have signed an online statement condemning Khan’s remarks as “factually inaccurate, insulting, and risky.”
“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 said.
The remarks were “appalled” by Pakistan’s Human Rights Commission, an independent rights watchdog, on Tuesday.
“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,” it said.
Pakistan is a highly conservative country where sexual assault victims are often regarded with suspicion and criminal cases are seldom investigated seriously.
Women who put “shame” on the family may be subjected to abuse or murder in much of the world.
It is consistently ranked among the world’s worst places for gender equality.
Last year, after a police chief chastised a gang-rape survivor for driving at night without a male escort, nationwide demonstrations erupted. After her vehicle ran out of gas, the Franco-Pakistani mother was raped in front of her children on the side of a highway.
Khan was chastised last year after failing to challenge a Muslim leader’s claim that the coronavirus was released as a result of women’s wrongdoings.
The new controversy arises as organizers of International Women’s Day marches face what they describe as a concerted misinformation campaign, which includes doctored photos and videos shared online.
It has resulted in blasphemy charges, which is a highly controversial topic in Pakistan, where past allegations have resulted in mob attacks.
The annual rally’s organizers also asked the prime minister to interfere.
Khan also blamed Britain’s high divorce rate on the “alcohol, drugs, and rock and roll” culture that started in the 1970s, when the twice-divorced Khan was gaining a reputation as a “playboy” in London.