Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has been harshly criticized by activists for making deeply sexist statements, which attribute the increase in sexual assault cases in the country to the “increasing vulgarity” of women.
The former cricketer made the remarks during a live television broadcast preaching to women to hide as he explained why wearing a veil can prevent “temptation”.
Mr. Khan said, “If you continue to increase vulgarity in a society, there will definitely be these effects.”
He advocated the traditional Islamic practice of women wearing a veil, saying it existed “so that there is no temptation in society”.
His controversial comment came on Sunday during a live Q&A show titled “Prime Minister On Call With You” when a caller asked questions about what the government is doing to address the rise in sexual violence, mainly against children.
Mr. Khan was accused of promoting “rape culture and rape apologia”. A number of legal organizations and hundreds of people have signed a statement demanding an apology.
While denouncing the crime against women, the Pakistani leader cited examples of Bollywood, Hollywood and the “sex, drugs and rock and roll” culture in England in the 1970s to increase profanity. He said these things are responsible for the high divorce rate and the breakup of family units in the West.
A statement by the Women’s Action Forum (WAF) and other rights groups said Khan’s statements were “false, insensitive and dangerous” and would “traumatize and silence survivors of sexual violence.”
“In a country where the total reported rape cases are only the tip of the iceberg …” it said. It added that Mr Khan disregarded the sexual abuse of underage girls, infants and boys that took place in homes and madrasas (Islamic religious institutions).
Khan’s ex-UK wife and celebrity Jemima Goldsmith also commented on what he said, saying she hoped “this is a wrong quote / translation.”
“The Imran I knew always said, ‘Put a veil on the man’s eyes, not the woman,” she said.
She shared a verse from the Koran and quoted: “Tell the believing men to hold back their eyes and protect their private parts.”
Mr. Khan’s second ex-wife, Rehan Khan, also reprimanded him, saying, “The less he speaks, the better it will be for everyone.”
The Prime Minister’s information advisor, Raoof Hasan, said his remarks had been misinterpreted and that selecting a single line from the statement distorted perspective.
“Unfortunately, part of his comment has been skewed, consciously or unconsciously, to mean something he never intended,” he said. He said Mr. Khan advocates a “holistic” approach to sexual assault, which combines legal remedies with society’s efforts.
Pakistan remains one of the worst countries for security and equality for women. Time and again, the country has been rocked by protests against high-profile cases and alleged scandals within the government.
In September last year at the latest, a rape on a highway sent shock waves across Pakistan after a woman was attacked in front of her children after her car broke down on a highway at night in September last year. Protests broke out after a senior police officer accused the victim and asked why she drove alone at night and did not choose a busier route.
The riot forced Mr. Khan to pass a law making chemical castration under severe penalties for rape offenders.
According to official figures, of 22,000 rape cases reported to police in the past six years, only 77 have been convicted. At least 11 rape cases are reported in the country every day.