ISLAMABAD – Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan is facing a backlash from rights groups as well as his two ex-wives for remarks over the weekend linking the country’s high incidence of rape to “obscenity” in society.
“When you increase obscenity in society of course there will be an effect,” Khan said on April 5 during a live television program. “What is the whole concept of the veil in our (Islamic) religion? So there is no temptation in society.”
Khan, a former professional cricketer who was once a fixture in social circles in Britain, also said he had seen how “sex, drugs and rock and roll” caused high divorce rates there.
Khan’s office said on Wednesday his remarks had been taken out of context. “The Prime Minister said that our strict anti-rape laws alone will not be able to stem the rise in sex crime. The whole society has to fight it together including lowering exposure to temptation,” it said in a statement.
Hours later a second statement was issued with the reference to “temptation” removed.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said Khan’s remarks not only displayed “a baffling ignorance of where, why and how rape occurs, but it also lays the blame on rape survivors.”
Fewer than 3% of sexual assault or rape cases result in a conviction in Pakistan, according to the Karachi-based group War Against Rape. It has called on Khan and his cabinet to undergo sensitivity training and for a judicial crackdown on rape.
Khan’s first wife, British socialite Jemima Khan, said on Twitter “the onus is on men,” quoting a passage from the Koran calling on men to avert their gaze from women.
Khan’s second wife, Reham Khan, also a British citizen, said on Twitter the fact that some young children were being raped in Pakistan meant Khan “had a totally wrong way of thinking” about rape.
In March, a court in Lahore sentenced two men to death for gang-raping a woman travelling along a major highway last year. The incident sparked nationwide protests after one senior police official publicly questioned why the woman had been driving alone at night with her children.