Rights groups outraged over Pakistan PM's rape comments

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan was facing a growing backlash Thursday after he blamed victims of rape for wearing “very few clothes”.

Former playboy cricketer Khan told television show Axios that how women dress affects men’s behaviour, outraging activists in the deeply conservative Islamic country. 

“If a woman is wearing very few clothes it will have an impact on the man unless they are robots. It’s common sense,” he said in English when asked about the epidemic of sexual violence and rape in Pakistan.

He did not elaborate on what he meant by “few clothes”, in a country where the vast majority of women wear conservative national dress.

More than a dozen women’s rights groups including the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan released a statement on Thursday demanding an apology.

“This is dangerously simplistic and only reinforces the common public perception that women are ‘knowing’ victims and men ‘helpless’ aggressors,” they said.

“It gives impunity to the culprits of rape, sodomy and molesters,” Karamat Ali, head of the Pakistan Institute for Labour Education and Research — which signed the statement — told AFP.

Weekend protests have been organised in the megacities of Karachi and Lahore.

Earlier this year the PM was accused of  “baffling ignorance” by one of the country’s top rights groups after he advised women to cover up to prevent rape.

His media team later insisted the comments in the national language of Urdu had been misinterpreted. 

Victims of sexual abuse are often viewed with suspicion and criminal complaints are rarely seriously investigated in Pakistan.

Much of the country lives under an “honour” code where women who bring “shame” on their families can be subjected to violence or murder.

It regularly ranks among the worst places in the world for gender equality. 

“Makes my heart shudder to think how many rapists feel validated today with the Prime Minister backing their crime,” tweeted Kanwal Ahmed, a campaigner for women’s rights, after the comments aired.

Nationwide protests erupted last year when a police chief admonished a gang-rape victim for driving at night without a male companion. 

The French-Pakistani mother was assaulted in front of her children on the side of a motorway after her car ran out of fuel. 

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