Pakistan's culture wars: Liberal-conservative faceoff over PM Imran Khan's alleged sexist remarks

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, once known as a "ladies' man",  continues to draw flak over comments perceived as sexist, but party’s women leaders have sprung to his defense calling him a "symbol of women's empowerment"

Sirshendu Panth Jun 22, 2021
PM Imran Khan

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, once known as a "ladies' man",  continues to draw flak over comments perceived as sexist, but party’s women leaders have sprung to his defense calling him a "symbol of women's empowerment". 

Imran Khan’s controversial comments on rape continued to dominate the social media and the political space for the second day on Tuesday as the country’s opposition lambasted the cricketer-turned-politician but his party’s women parliamentarians stood by their leader.

Leading the howls of protests on Twitter were several women, who claimed to have faced sexual harassment despite wearing dresses that fully covered their bodies.

Khan had said during a television interview that a woman wearing few clothes would have an impact on men “unless they’re robots”.

”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”.

To a further poser on whether a woman’s clothing really provokes acts of sexual violence, he said: “It depends on which society you live in. If in a society where people haven’t seen that sort of thing, it will have an impact on them’.

Taking to Twitter, several Pakistani women talked about their attire when they were harassed, revisiting their trauma to explain that rape has nothing to do with what the victim was wearing.

A woman said she was harassed as a six-year-old, wearing a dupatta (scarf). Another said being four years old and wearing shalwar kameez didn't prevent her from being harassed.

Another woman disclosed how she was groped in her full school uniform and headscarf.

Lashing out at Imran Khan, women opposition leaders called him "sick" and "misogynistic".

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz's Marriyum Aurangzeb said that the world had gotten an insight into the "mind of a sick, misogynistic, degenerate and derelict Imran Khan".

Pakistan Peoples Party's Sherry Rehman asked the prime minister to explain "why he chose to blame women for the violence and sex crimes they face".

"Not OK at any level. Social, judicial, religious and political. He’s saying it’s the victim’s fault, not the man’s. Could he explain what else leads to assault? Misogyny 101," she said.

On the other hand, female members of the National Assembly from the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf held a media conference to defend Imran Khan and called out the "liberal brigade" for misrepresenting the facts.

During the presser, Minister of State for Climate Change Zartaj Gul claimed that the premier was "a symbol of women empowerment" as no other party had managed to mobilize women in the political sphere to this extent.

"For the first time in Pakistan, five women ministers are sitting in the federal cabinet. This means that if there is a symbol of women empowerment in Pakistan, it is Prime Minister Imran," she said.

"Our culture and way of dressing are idolized across the world. They wish and try to dress like us graceful Pakistanis," she said, adding that no "liberal corrupt" would be allowed to be a spokesperson for Pakistani society.

Parliamentary Secretary for Law Maleeka Bokhari said that she was proud to be a member of parliament under the leadership of "a man who prioritized the protection of women and children".

She said the first instructions the premier gave the law ministry were to make laws to put an end to sexual abuse and violence against women and children.


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