At a press conference held earlier today, 16 civil society organisations—including the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, the Women’s Action Forum, Tehrik-e-Niswan, Aurat March, and the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research, among others—have strongly condemned Prime Minister Imran Khan’s troubling remarks linking women’s attire to the incidence of rape.
This is the second time that the Prime Minister has reduced sexual violence to an act of ‘temptation.’ This is dangerously simplistic and only reinforces the common public perception that women are ‘knowing’ victims and men ‘helpless’ aggressors. For the head of government—a government that claims to defend the rights of women and vulnerable groups—to insist on this view is simply inexcusable. It is equally disheartening to see that several women members of the ruling party have jumped to the Prime Minister’s defence and justified his comments in vague, illogical terms.
Even a cursory glance at the news should make it painfully clear that survivors of sexual violence can include women, girls, men, boys, and transgender persons—and that such acts can occur in schools, workplaces, homes, and public spaces. Gender, age and attire do not ‘prevent’ rape any more than the time of day or the relationship between survivor and perpetrator. The Prime Minister would do well to understand that rape is an act of power, not lack of sexual control.
We demand an immediate public apology from the Prime Minister and assurances that his highly flawed perception of how and why rape occurs does not inform the government’s attempts to tackle what is a serious and prevalent crime in Pakistan.