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Did PM Imran Khan Blame The Rape Crisis On How Women Dress?

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Recently, in an interview with HBO, the Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan made certain remarks that have caused much havoc on social media and have been the topic of countless debates since, especially among women. He famously asserted, “If a woman is wearing very few clothes it will have an impact, it will have an impact on the men, unless they’re robots. I mean it’s common sense.”

I would like to make an appeal to the prime minister to enlighten me and the majority of the vulnerable population of the country as to the logic behind this assertion. How can an atrocity like sexual violence be justified merely on account of clothing and related impulse control? Are men really that weak that a slight show of skin would distract them into committing sexual misdemeanor? If that’s the case, why are the victims of rape often young boys, burqa-clad women and minors when they were fully clothed? There are certainly a lot of shortcomings in the premier’s statement that need to be reflected upon.

God declared humans ashraf ul makhlooqaat and superior to other creatures by endowing them the ability to think and act for themselves; hence they certainly have the ability to control their evil instincts. This can be substantiated from Surah Yusuf which describes a historical incident of Zulaikha who tried to seduce Hazrat Yusuf on accounts of his sensational beauty. However, all her attempts proved fruitless after Hazrat Yusuf refused to give in to her immoral demands. (Chapter 12, Quran)

Rape cannot be justified under any circumstances. Being a woman in itself is a daunting task in a society like Pakistan which is seemingly swarming with pedophiles and harassers. All women, no matter what their age, dress or social class have experienced something inappropriate at some point in their lives. To top it all child sexual abuse and teenage boy rape cases are exponentially rising, or at least their reportage is. Certainly none of them was in any sort of inappropriate clothing nor semi-naked. Rape has no substantial connection with clothing but has deep rooted social and psychological causes. According to the actor Osman Khalid Butt, “Yes, there is desire, temptation, attraction. Rape isn’t caused by this. Rape is about power, dominance, a complete lack of empathy, hostility. It diminishes a woman – or a man, or a child – to a sexual object. It is dehumanizing.”

For such reasons feminists in Pakistan have proclaimed it a highly patriarchal country where men have been endowed a privileged status that has allows them to run statecraft and subjugate women in all spheres – social, political and economic. Unequal gender representation in socio-political institutions has prevented unbiased policymaking that can effectively deal with women’s issues. The feeling of power and male ego evokes feelings of entitlement over the weaker sex’ which is why spokesperson for the Pakistan Muslim League Marriyum Aurangzeb criticized Khan on Twitter by asserting, “It’s not women’s choices that lead to sexual assault rather the choices of men, who choose to engage in this despicable and vile crime.” Hence there is a dire need to break patriarchal norms and sexist stereotypes that have worsened the plight of women, children and men alike.

In the light of the above discussion the need of the hour is to raise awareness in order to reform patriarchal attitudes, legal frameworks and sociopolitical institutions. Media needs to acknowledge that it has not played a significant part in holding leaders accountable and needs to be the ‘voice’ of several victims of harassment and of underprivileged citizens. Gender inequality is a rampant social issue that needs to be addressed in order to alleviate the image of our country in terms of socioeconomic development.

For this we must adhere to the Sustainable Development Goals and commit to the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) which has not been implemented since 1996. Moreover, the essence of a democracy needs to be respected and all citizens must be given their rights regardless of gender. Last but not the least, the justice system and prosecution department must be strengthened to bring sex offenders to the book and deter them in the future. Holistic reforms must be undertaken at grassroot levels in order to rectify the ‘actual’ causes of rape in our society and to create some hope for a better future.

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Naya Daur