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“Pakistan PM Imran Khan blames clothes of women for rising rapes” - With Some Twists and Turns

There has been a rampant rise of rape cases in Pakistan in recent years - and with little to no proper action taken against those who are guilty, with the conviction rate of 0.3% in rape cases and severe underreporting. Rather, like in many societies including India, it is more convenient to not talk about it and to blame it all on the victim, usually women, and going as far as commenting on how they dress is a reason why they got raped at the first place. 


This is apparently what the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan has done in a recent interview with “Axios on HBO”. He is seen saying, “If a woman is wearing very few clothes, it will have an impact on the men, unless they are robots. It’s just common sense.”This has led to an outrage on social media. He has also managed to draw some sharp criticisms from Opposition leaders and journalists in Pakistan. He also adds that both Hollywood and Bollywood movies have had a negative influence on Pakistanis due to the cultural gaps and then people had the desire to do something which their society did not offer originally.


Reema Omer, the legal advisor for South Asia, International Commission of Jurists has tweeted, “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, Shameful!”


What is ironic about this particular tweet, however, is that more than 80% of the people, mostly Pakistanis in Pakistan or even outside Pakistan are replying and condemning the tweet in its timeline and asking Ms. Reema to not twist the words of the Prime Minister and not take things out of context. 


Also, Dr. Arslan Khalid, the focal person for digital media to the PM has tweeted, “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.”


According to the people defending the Prime Minister’s views on social media, he is invoking the concept of ‘purdah’, not to talk about the way women dress and the need to “cover the women” to control the temptations of men, the way it is usually understood, but to control the temptations and tendencies of the Pakistani society - which does not have the liberal structure like the western society does, thus not having the proper channels to utilize their pent up sexual energy and frustrations, and that by using the concept of purdah, the Prime Minister is trying to invoke the need to instill the moral conscience in the people, while spreading the awareness and possibly removing the stigma around the issue of rape and even child abuse. They highlighted that Pakistani society functions very differently from the Western norms and ideals and therefore due to the cultural barriers and differences and also due to the personal vendetta of the journalist, who took the interview, Imran Khan’s words and intentions are being heavily misunderstood.


However, there were others, who did agree with the cultural context part of the argument but disagreed with the part that clothing makes any difference in the intentions of the (potential) rapists. At the end of the day, according to them, Pakistani society needs to be sensitized about this issue, while removing the stigma and misconceptions with rape and other related crimes while making people understand that a man’s sexual frustration is not more important than a woman’s safety and their prospects of future.


This is not the first time such statements were made, the Pakistani PM has said some contentious words like this before as well. A few months before this interview with HBO, he said that vulgarity is the cause behind the rising rape cases in Pakistan, and in a live interview, he said, “This entire concept of purdah is to avoid temptation. Not everyone has the willpower to avoid it,” in response to a question about the steps taken by his government to prevent rape and sexual assault cases. 


In response to this, hundreds of people had signed a statement demanding Imran Khan to release an apology for his regressive and seemingly conservative views.


Nevertheless, there are some serious contentions vis-a-vis the statement Imran Khan made in the interview, especially with the terminology used. Which side one believes in is totally up to how one interprets the whole scenario, and what is recommended is to see both sides of the argument, while seeing the whole interview, if you can access it and seeing the state of rape crimes and the way these cases are handled in the country. Making an informed opinion is always better than jumping to conclusions.

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Tags: Pakistan Sexual Harassment Imran Khan Crimes Against Women in Pakistan

1 comment

11 months, 1 week ago by [email protected]

PM knows how to ditch questions. Shocking to know such a conservative mindset exists at a level. The article has covered such an important topic, that why women are still being seen from the wrong perspective. Thank you for this eye-opening article.

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