Pakistani women activists and rights campaigners have lashed out at Prime Minister Imran Khan after he linked the rise in rape cases with how women dress.

In a weekend interview on live television, the PM said an increase in rapes indicated the “consequences in any society where vulgarity is on the rise”.

“The incidents of rape of women … [have] actually very rapidly increased in society,” AFP quoted the premier as saying.

In his statement, he advised women to cover up to prevent temptation.

“This entire concept of purdah is to avoid temptation, not everyone has the willpower to avoid it,” he said.

Hundreds have signed a statement circulating online on Wednesday, calling the comments “factually incorrect, insensitive and dangerous”.

“Fault rests solely with the rapist and the system that enables the rapist, including a culture fostered by statements such as those made by [Imran],” the statement said.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, an independent rights watchdog, on Tuesday said it was “appalled” by the comments.

“Not only does this betray a baffling ignorance of where, why and how rape occurs, but it also lays the blame on rape survivors, who, as the government must know, can range from young children to victims of honour crimes,” it said.

In Pakistan, criminal complaints pertaining to sexual abuse are rarely investigated seriously. It also ranks among the worst places in the world for gender equality.

Nationwide protests erupted last year when a police chief admonished a gang-rape victim for driving at night without a male companion. The woman was sexually assaulted in front of her children on the side of a motorway after her car ran out of fuel.

In December, the government had issued the Anti-Rape Ordinance 2020 that will ensure speedy trial of rape cases. The law also allows for chemical castration of those convicted of such offences.

The latest controversy comes as the organisers of International Women’s Day marches battle what they have called a coordinated disinformation campaign against them, including doctored images and videos circulated online.

It has led to blasphemy accusations that often result in violence. The organisers of the annual rally have called for the prime minister to intervene.


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