Leaders are meant to lead by example. Unfortunately, Prime Minister Imran Khan appears to suffer from the reverse and instead of being an example to his fellow citizens, he makes statements that hurt and embarrass all of us.
It is well-known that former playboy Imran Khan has, ever since he joined politics, put forth Islamic, conservative, and patriarchal feudal views when it comes to the other sex. In the last few months, for the second time, the Prime Minister has expressed views on the issue of rape and sexual assault that are especially reprehensible.
In April 2021, during a conversation with members of the public, Imran Khan when asked about his government would tackle rape “linked the rise of rape and sexual abuse to the rise of “vulgarity”. Further he “spoke of religion and the concept of ‘pardah’ in Islam. It is to remove “temptation” from society because “not everyone has willpower.”
A public outcry ensued with many activists taking to social media to express their outrage
Recently during an interview when he was asked to explain his former comments, the premier denied them by saying “It is such nonsense. I never said that […] I said the concept of purdah which is to avoid temptation in society.” However, he continued and said “If you raise temptation within society and all these young guys have nowhere to go, it has consequences. If a woman is wearing very few clothes, it will have an impact on men unless they are robots. I mean it’s common sense. If you have a society where people haven’t seen that sort of thing it will have an impact on them.”
As an editorial in the Dawn pointed out “not once, but twice, has the prime minister of this country articulated deeply problematic views about rape. The public outcry the first time around evidently did not make him reflect on his words and consider how they reinforce society’s misogynistic outlook in which women, unless kept on a ‘tight leash’, can legitimately be held responsible for sexual violence by men. Instead, he has proceeded to articulate his opinion on the subject on a far bigger platform than a local telethon as was the case earlier.”
As the editorial notes, “there is a difference between an ordinary member of the public and someone in a position of authority taking a stance that appears to condone rape, in a manner of speaking, and puts the onus on the victim. It reinforces a dangerous narrative that seeps into how sexual violence is investigated and prosecuted, and deters victims from coming forward in a society where the crime is already massively under-reported. Those who do so are made to endure humiliating interrogations by the police and in court that make them feel defiled all over again, as though they ‘asked for it’. Rape is a crime primarily of power rather than lust, rooted in a contempt for others’ bodily integrity. There can never be any justification for it.”
As author and former Ambassador, Husain Haqqani tweeted