Imran Khan, Pakistan’s Prime Minister and former cricketer, has ignited outrage after seeming to attribute the increase in rape to how some women dress.
The Pakistani leader made the remarks during a recent live event titled “Prime Minister On Call With You,” in which he answered public questions.
During his appearance on the show, Khan said that the conventional Islamic head covering would shield women from sexual harassment while not tempting men. He also said that vulgarity and obscenity work together to kill cultures and communities.
“If you keep increasing vulgarity in a society, then definitely there will be this impact,” he said. “What is the whole concept of observing the veil? It is so that there is no temptation in society. Each individual does not have the willpower or strength, if you keep increasing obscenity in the society and if you don’t care, then there are impacts of such things.”
“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,” Khan added.
The remarks caused an uproar among Pakistani rights groups, which say such misogynistic remarks shame women and excuse rapists.
The independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan called Khan’s comments unacceptable and appalling for suggesting the veil can contain sexual assault.
“Not only does this display a baffling ignorance of where, why and how rape occurs, but it also lays the blame on rape survivors,” it said in a statement. The commission chairperson Hina Jilani is a member of The Elders, a group formed in 2007 by Nelson Mandela.
The commission demanded an apology from Khan and a commitment his administration would tackle rape “as an act of violence, of power”.
Khan’s information advisor Raoof Hasan said the Prime Minister’s remarks were misinterpreted and claimed he advocated a “holistic” approach to sexual assault that includes both strong legal repercussions for rapists and sexual predators and efforts by society as a whole working to find remedies.
“Plucking a single line out distorts the prospective and does not serve the cause of the actual statement,” Hasan said.
A government statement quoted Khan as having said on the subject of sexual assault: “The whole society needs to fight it collectively. There are some wars which are won by societies.”
Pakistan has been rocked by high-profile sexual attacks, including an assault in September of a mother gang-raped before her children after their car broke down on a major freeway at night.
In the first six months of last year, nearly 1500 children were sexually assaulted in Pakistan, according to Sahil, a charity that monitors and fights sexual abuse of children.
It was also stated that figures represent only those that are reported in the more than 80 national, provincial and regional publications that the organisation monitors.`