Outrage after Pakistan’s president links rape to how women dress

Pakistani women activists and rights campaigners have accused Prime Minister Imran Khan of “baffling ignorance” after the cricketer-turned-politician blamed how women dress for a rise in rape cases.

In a weekend interview on live television, Oxford-educated Khan said an increase in rapes indicated the “consequences in any society where vulgarity is on the rise”.

“The incidents of rape of women … [have] actually very rapidly increased in society,” he said.

He advised women to cover up to prevent temptation.

“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 have signed a statement circulating online on Wednesday, calling Khan’s comments “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 said.

 

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, an independent rights watchdog, on Tuesday said it was “appalled” by the comments.

“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 deeply conservative country where victims of sexual abuse are often viewed with suspicion and criminal complaints are rarely investigated seriously.

Much of the country lives under an “honour” code where women who bring “shame” on the family can be subjected to violence or murder.

It regularly ranks among the worst places in the world for gender equality.

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