Blaming Women's Dress for Rapes Doesn't Go Over Well

Pakistan's leader referred to 'vulgarity' when asked about sexual assaults
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 8, 2021 5:10 PM CDT
Outcry Meets Leader's Answer About Sexual Assaults
Prime Minister Imran Khan gives an interview last month in Islamabad.   (AP Photo/B.K. Bangash, File)

The prime minister's office has said Imran Khan was misunderstood when he appeared to hold women partly responsible for the increase in sexual assaults, after Pakistan had a bad reaction to his remarks. Asked on a live TV show what the government was doing about the issue, Khan mentioned the strong laws in place, the New York Times reports. Then he referred to purdah, the practice in which women wear veils and face coverings, sometimes staying out of the sight of men. "What is the concept of purdah?" he said. "It is to stop temptation. Not every man has willpower. If you keep on increasing vulgarity, it will have consequences." The nation's independent Human Rights Commission led the objections, saying Khan should apologize: "Not only does this betray a baffling ignorance of where, why, and how rape occurs, but it also lays the blame on rape survivors."

Pakistan is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for women. Sexual abuse complaints are rarely made to police or investigated, per the BBC. Forced marriage is still widespread. A statement signed by individuals and human rights organizations said Khan's words "actively fostered and promoted rape culture." His office released a statement Wednesday saying Khan's answer was misinterpreted when he talked "about the societal responses and the need to put our efforts together to eliminate the menace of rape completely." Jemima Goldsmith, Khan's first wife, piled on on Twitter, posting, "The problem is not how women dress!" She also posted that she hoped the quote was a misunderstanding, because she'd known him to say, "Put a veil on the man's eyes not on the woman." (Read more Pakistan stories.)

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