THE myth that a woman’s clothing is somehow linked to the sexual violence against her has long been debunked, but it seems the prime minister still harbours this problematic view. During a telethon where members of the public were invited to ask him questions, Imran Khan’s response to one caller was unsettling. Though Mr Khan denounced crimes against women and children, his explanation that sexual violence is somehow a product of ‘obscenity’ — which he described as a Western and an Indian import — betrayed an ill-informed understanding of a very serious issue.

Not only did Mr Khan say that the pervasiveness of obscene behaviour has contributed to these crimes, he also implied that they can somehow be prevented if women observe purdah. In his words, purdah would lessen the temptation of those who lack willpower. While he noted that society would have to evolve to better protect its women and children, his point appeared to be more about limiting government responsibility than reforming male behaviour. Mr Khan’s views on this subject are shockingly insensitive and even harmful to the women’s movement in the country.

Read: In Pakistan, rape culture is not only systemic, it is reinforced at every level

If the holder of the country’s highest office is framing the narrative of sexual violence in a way that places the responsibility of ‘doing more’ on women, it gives little hope that common citizens will espouse a broader and less misogynistic approach. If the prime minister had engaged with rights activists in the country to really understand women’s grievances, he would instantly comprehend that this mentality of equating rape with a lack of ‘modesty’ is the very manifestation of victim-blaming that women fight against.

Blaming the increasing incidence of rape on Western influence is convenient, but Mr Khan should not forget that women in the countries he blames for obscenity and high divorce rates have better protections and more freedoms than women in Pakistan. He should understand the basics of women empowerment, and acknowledge that imposing a solution is no support; the government must protect women regardless of their choices.

Published in Dawn, April 6th, 2021

Opinion

Eid and money
Updated 13 May 2021

Eid and money

Why is a thing more real when you can touch, taste or feel it as opposed to something that is only experienced?
On whose side?
13 May 2021

On whose side?

Ambassadors strive to ‘well-serve’ their country.

Editorial

Eid during Covid
Updated 13 May 2021

Eid during Covid

It is indisputable that our actions now will prevent matters from becoming far worse.
13 May 2021

Foreign policy gaffes

MIXED messages, retractions and clarifications from the government have become an all-too-common occurrence when it...
13 May 2021

Zimbabwe series win

PAKISTAN’S crushing innings victories over Zimbabwe in the two Tests were a befitting end to their highly...
PM’s Saudi visit
Updated 12 May 2021

PM’s Saudi visit

It is very important that Pakistan take no step, or agree to any demand, that can have an adverse effect on national sovereignty.
12 May 2021

A new intifada?

THE situation in the occupied territories over the past few days has been incendiary, with tensions boiling over as...
Updated 12 May 2021

SOP violations

ON Monday, Sindh Police officials were given a well-deserved slap on the wrist by a judicial magistrate in Karachi...