Outcry in Pakistan After Imran Khan Links Rape to How Women Dress
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — An outcry has erupted in Pakistan after Prime Minister Imran Khan blamed a rise in rape cases on how women dressed, remarks that activists denounced as perpetuating a culture of victim blaming.
Mr. Khan made the comments on a live television show earlier this week when he was asked what the government was doing to curb an increase in sexual violence against women and children. Mr. Khan acknowledged the seriousness of the problem and pointed to the country’s strict laws against rape.
“What is the concept of purdah?” he said, using a term that refers to the practice of seclusion, veiling or concealing dress for women in some South Asian communities. “It is to stop temptation. Not every man has willpower. If you keep on increasing vulgarity, it will have consequences.”
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, an independent group, demanded Mr. Khan apologize for his remarks, which it called “unacceptable behavior on the part of a public leader.”
“The prime minister spoke about the societal responses and the need to put our efforts together to eliminate the menace of rape completely,” the office said in the statement. “Unfortunately, part of his comment, consciously or unconsciously, has been distorted to mean something that he never intended.”
Mr. Khan’s government has faced immense pressure to speed up justice for rape survivors after a series of assaults sparked demands for the death penalty to be applied to such cases. In December, the government passed a measure that said men convicted of rape could be sentenced to chemical castration.
There are few reliable statistics on rape in Pakistan, but rights activists say it is a severely underreported crime, in part because victims are often treated as criminals or blamed for the assaults. Thousands of protesters took to the streets last year after a top police official in the eastern city of Lahore said that a woman who was raped on a deserted highway was partly to blame for the attack.