Imran Khan’s solution to rape: Adopt purdah

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has a stern message for women: observe purdah, otherwise you might get raped

Tony Fernandez |

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan (https://commons.wikimedia.org/)

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan is behaving like the priggish preachers who think that their vociferous pieties will make people forget or ignore the indiscretions of their youth. He lived like a playboy when he was young; he had a Western lifestyle and several Western girlfriends, one of them eventually marrying him; but he wants others, especially women, not to follow in his footsteps; they should beware the West. He has a stern message for women: observe purdah, otherwise you might get raped.

During a live television interview, he said, “What is the very concept of purdah? There shouldn’t be any temptation in society… Every person doesn’t have the will power to check temptation… in any society where vulgarity is prevalent, there are consequences… There was some philosophy behind the purdah; that was to protect our family system and society.”

Notice the absence of human agency in bad action: if there is “temptation,” if a woman flashes her body in an un-Islamic manner, a man can do something wrong. So, the real villain is temptation, or rather the tempter—in this case, a woman without purdah. Hence all women should remain in purdah. QED.

This from the Oxford-educated gent who has spent a great of time in the UK.

He doesn’t see rampart misogyny, which accompanies Islamism, in his country. He doesn’t see systemic flaws, institutional mindset, and cultural-religious milieu that perpetuate discrimination against women.

It is heartening to note that not all Pakistanis are as regressive as their Prime Minister is. About 400 groups and individuals—most of them women—openly castigated him for his reprehensible statement. They wrote: “We condemn the recent remarks made by the Prime Minister of Pakistan on the causes of sexual violence and rape as being factually incorrect, insensitive and dangerous. Through this statement, and others made prior to this, the Prime Minister has actively fostered and promoted rape culture and rape apologia. In a country where the total reported cases of rape represent only the tip of the iceberg, such statements have the effect of further traumatizing and silencing survivors of sexual violence by placing the blame on them, instead of on those who carry out the crime and the system that enables rapists. Comments of this nature also disregard those prevalent cases of sexual violence that seem to have escaped the Prime Minister’s attention, including but not limited to the rape of minor girls as young as a few months old, sodomization and sexual abuse of young boys—even in madressahs—and sexual abuse and violence within the confines of the home, perpetrated by family members, including their ‘mehrams.’ He also seems to be unaware of bestiality and necrophilia, cases of which have also been reported in Pakistan.”

Will the Oxford-educated Prime Minister ever see that rapists give two hoots to the dress or belief system of their victims. In an article on October 17, 2017, in Independent, Sufiya Ahmed wrote, “The Muslim Women’s Network UK runs a helpline for Muslim women. Shaista Gohir, the chair, told me: ‘We receive calls on the helpline from Muslim women who disclose sexual assault and rape. They have been fully dressed. Some have been wearing the headscarf, jilbab (full robe) and even the face veil. The offenders have included family friends, family members, and also respected religious leaders in the community’.”

She further quoted Gohir, “Women’s dress is an excuse popularized by men to justify their behavior so they don’t have to take responsibility. It makes me angry when some women join in and peddle the same narrative instead of challenging it” (https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/modest-clothing-mayim-bialik-harvey-weinstein-sexual-harassment-muslim-women-a8004501.html)

In India, too, the situation is not very different. A survey conducted in Madhya Pradesh in 2013 found that states 48 per cent of the victims were wearing salwar kurta, 41 per cent were clad in sari, and 10 per cent of toddlers wore frocks and pajamas at the time of the incident (https://www.news18.com/news/india/supply-of-vaccines-abroad-would-continue-keeping-in-mind-domestic-requirements-mea-3620882.html).

It is time Imran Khan—and the saffron Taliban in our country—opened their eyes and saw the reality about rape as it is.

Imran Khan’s new-found religiosity reminds me of a couplet by a nineteenth century Urdu poet Momin. Umr to saarī kaTī ishq-e-butāñ meñ ‘Momin’/Aḳhirī vaqt meñ kyā ḳhaak musalmāñ hoñge (I spent my life chasing beautiful women ‘Momin’/How on earth can I become a good Muslim in old age?).

The poet couldn’t. But Imran Khan thinks he can.

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