Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has sparked outcry by blaming women’s dress for a rise in rape cases in his country.
The former cricketing playboy made the remark during a question and answer session with the public on Sunday, when a caller asked what the government is doing about rising in sexual violence particularly against children.
Khan hit out at what he called ‘vulgarity’ in societies around the world – singling out India’s Bollywood and the ‘sex, drugs and rock and roll’ culture of England in the 70s as examples – saying that is to blame for moral decline which leads to sex attacks.
He then praised the Islamic concept of purdah – or modesty – as an antidote to that decline, saying it is important to ‘keep temptation in check’.
‘World history tells when you increase fahashi (vulgarity) in society, two things happen: sex crimes increase and the family system breaks down,’ he said.
‘This entire concept of purdah (covering up or segregating) is to avoid temptation, not everyone has the willpower to avoid it.’
He added that while his government will introduce legislation to protect women from attacks, it is up to the whole of society to help by preserving modesty.
Twice-divorced Khan, one of the best cricketers of all time, was no stranger to scantily-clad women as he partied in VIP nightclubs during his bachelor life in London.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks during a news conference in Putrajaya, Malaysia, February 4, 2020
Imran Khan with fashion guru and journalist Susannah Constantine, who he dated before marrying Jemima Goldsmith in 1995
Imran Khan holds his newborn son Sulaiman beside his wife Jemima as they take part in the Muslim feast of Eid al-Fitr, marking the end of holy fasting month of Ramadan in Lahore in 1997
Khan and a girlfriend at London’s London’s Grosvenor House Hotel in 1992, left, and walking down a London street with a mystery woman in 1990, right
The English public schoolboy famously dated fashion guru Susannah Constantine before marrying glamorous socialite Jemima Goldsmith in 1995.
The pair had two sons before their split nine years later, which was in part attributed to the difficulties she faced in Pakistan where she was hounded for her family’s Jewish ancestry.
Khan’s second marriage ended after nine months in 2015, following a whirlwind romance with former BBC newsreader Reham Khan.
She had been widely criticised after appearing at public meetings of Khan’s PTI party, with opponents accusing her of seeking to boost her own profile through her husband’s fame.
His current wife and the First Lady, Bushra Wattoo, was married in a conservative ceremony in Pakistan in 2018, which saw her face totally shrouded in line with Islamic orthodoxy.
Pointing to his playboy past, Khan said that ‘sex, drugs and rock n roll culture’ in the UK had led to a 70 per cent rise in divorce rates due to ‘vulgarity’.
He also singled out India’s Bollywood, saying Delhi had become ‘a rape capital of the world’ due to indecency and ‘obscenity’ shown in films.
He added that rape is ‘spreading like a cancer’ within Pakistani society and that preserving the Islamic concept of modesty should be used as a defence.
‘Our family system is intact and we can fix our justice system and the institutions but if our family system breaks down, we will not be able to rebuild it,’ he said.
Hundreds today signed an online statement which called Khan’s comments on rape ‘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 (Khan),’ the statement said.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, an independent rights watchdog, said Tuesday 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.
Pakistan is a deeply conservative country where victims of sexual abuse are often viewed with suspicion and criminal complaints are rarely seriously investigated.
Much of the country lives under an ‘honour’ code where women who bring ‘shame’ on the family can be subjected to violence or murder.
Imran Khan and US actress Jerry Hall, left, and with his ex-fiancee Kristiane Backer
Imran Khan and the Marquis of Worcester and an unknown woman at Annabel’s nightclub in London
It regularly ranks among the worst places in the world for gender equality.
Data shows that 11 rapes are reported in the country each day, which is thought to be only a fraction of the total, Geo News reported.
Of the 22,000 rapes reported in Pakistan in the last six years, just 77 people have been convicted as a result – a rate of 0.3 per cent which ranks among the lowest in the world.
In February, the forensics department of Khyber Medical College University caused outrage when it suggested that women should be charged for post-rape examinations that help secure convictions.
Nationwide protests erupted last year when a police chief admonished a gang-rape victim for driving at night without a male companion.
The Franco-Pakistani mother was assaulted in front of her children on the side of a motorway after her car ran out of fuel.
Last year, Khan was also criticised after another television appearance where he failed to challenge a Muslim cleric’s insistence that coronavirus had been unleashed because of the wrongdoings of women.
The latest controversy comes as the organisers behind 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 – a hugely sensitive issue in Pakistan where allegations have previously led mobs to attack people.
The organisers of the annual rally have called for the prime minister to intervene.
In his weekend TV appearance, Khan also blamed divorce rates in Britain on the ‘sex, drugs and rock and roll’ culture that began in the 1970s, when the twice-divorced Khan was gaining a reputation in London as a playboy.
Imran Khan’s wives
WIFE NUMBER ONE: JEMIMA GOLDSMITH
Jemima Goldsmith, who has now returned to her maiden name, is the eldest child of Lady Annabel Goldsmith and Sir James Goldsmith.
Jemima was just 21 years old when she met the 42-year-old Imran Khan, and the couple married in 1995 – first in an Islamic ceremony in Paris and then in a civil ceremony in Richmond, London.
Having converted to Islam, she followed her new husband to Lahore, Pakistan where she learned to speak Urdu.
Khan’s wedding to Jemima Goldsmith in Richmond, London, in 1995
The couple have two sons, Sulaiman Isa, born in 1996, and Qasim, born in 1999.
During their marriage, she established herself as a philanthropist and social campaigner, fighting for the rights of refugees, freedom of information and various political causes.
She also began working as a journalist from Pakistan, writing for various British newspapers, and set up a fashion label where the profits were donated to the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital, named after her mother-in-law.
During their marriage she was subjected to abuse by Imran Khan’s political opponents or those who disagreed with his involvement in politics.
After nine years of marriage, in 2004, the couple announced that they would divorce, citing Jemima’s difficulties to settle in Pakistan.
Speaking in 2011, Khan said he had realised his ex-wife may have been too young and inexperienced to cope with the challenges of his political career.
WIFE NUMBER TWO: REHAM KHAN
British-Pakistani Reham Khan was born in Ajdabiya, Libya in 1973.
After studies in Pakistan, she began working as a broadcast journalist in the UK in the mid-noughties, including as a weather presenter for BBC South Today.
After moving to Pakistan in 2012, she met Imran Khan when she interviewed him for a local TV show.
The following year, in 2013, she began presenting a news programme called NewsOne, and continued to work in TV journalism.
Wife number two: Former BBC weather presenter Reham Khan was married to Imran for just ten months in 2015
Imran Khan with his bride Reham Khan at his home in Islamabad, Pakistan in January 2015
Her relationship with Imran Khan remained secret until the end of 2014 when Jemima Goldsmith announced she was going to return to her maiden name because Imran was going to remarry.
They couple married in January 2015 in a ceremony at his Islamabad home, but divorced ten months later.
After the divorce, Reham revealed that she – like Jemima – had been subjected to a hate campaign in Pakistan and that their marriage had not survived it.
The journalist wrote in the Guardian that she had faced ‘a barrage of abuse’ for marrying a man ‘idolised’ in his homeland by millions.
Reham Khan, who has kept her married name, writes on her website that her attention is now focused on ‘social work and humanitarian efforts in Pakistan’.
WIFE NUMBER THREE: BUSHRA WATTOO, FIRST LADY OF PAKISTAN
Little is known about Bushra Wattoo, a mother-of-five who divorced her first husband last year.
She is said to be Imran Khan’s ‘spiritual healer’ and the pair reportedly met two years ago during an election campaign.
Wattoo, who is also known as ‘Pinki’, comes from a deeply conservative family from eastern Punjab.
Before their relationship, Khan had sought her out for spiritual healing.
Earlier this year, local media reported that Khan caused the divorce between Wattoo and her ex-husband Khawar Fareed Maneka, something which Mr Maneka later denied.
Ceremony: Imran Khan, centre, poses for a photograph with his new wife Bushra Wattoo, second from right, along with relatives during a wedding ceremony in Lahore