Premier was dead-on when he said that the incidents of rape reported in media are just 1% of what actually happens in the country. But he dropped the ball when he linked the rise of rape and sexual abuse to the rise of vulgarity. Prime Minister Imran Khan took phone calls from the general public to respond to their queries directly. A caller asked him what steps the government is taking to curb the rising incidents of sexual violence. In response, he said

“When you increase obscenity in society, of course, there will be an effect. What is the whole concept of the veil in our (Islamic) religion? So there is no temptation in society.”

This was just another instance of Khan being Khan, a familiar aspect of his sophomoric attitude.

The crisis is real

Official data revealed at least 11 rape cases reported in Pakistan every day, with over 22,000 rape cases reported across the country in the last six years (2015 – 2020). However, the country’s police noted that the actual number of cases might be more than 60,000. Moreover, child sexual abuse is far too common than we are led to believe by the few cases that attracted media attention. Cruel numbers revealed at least eight children are sexually abused daily. This reflects upon the gravity of the situation to shake our conscience. No place, either school, Madrassa, or even home, is immune to the abuse crisis. Still, our usual responses remain denial of collective responsibility, which has less direct but more insidious effects.

News of sexual violence flashes across our TV screens every now and then, which sparks a polarized debate. On one side are; the people who are concerned about the problem of growing cases of such nature. On the other, people who are complicit in blaming and castigating the victim. After a traumatic event, it is typical to experience complex and often devastating physical and emotional effects. But the reality that the tragedy of a person is being manipulated by the system hits him or her even harder.

Unbothered to take the responsibility

Tone at the top set forth an environment and values. It determines how society talks about rape, how the media writes about rape, how the policymakers & legislators extend basic human rights to the people, and how law enforcers ensure public safety. Prime Minister just not made a statement but showed an attitude that eventually would trickle down to the bottom line. He should have prioritized the creation & cultivation of a protected environment. But he shifted responsibility away from those in a position to bring about change.

Rapists do not control their impulses when they are free from fear of retribution, accountability, & conviction. At the same time, the fear of judgment and shame keeps victims from speaking out & approaching the authorities. It is not very long ago since CCPO Lahore blamed the rape victim for her choice of route and for traveling late at night. If this is the mindset at the top, Imagine the attitude of the officers in lower ranks towards victims.

Prime Minister Imran Khan should have studied any previous investigation before making such a dangerously ambiguous statement. This is true even if the government had not done any research because the numbers are showing a grim situation of the legal system. Official figures drawn from the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Police, & Law & Justice Commission of Pakistan show only 41% of the rape cases had been reported to the police in the past six years due to social pressures & loopholes in the system of law & order. Out of a total of 22,037 cases reported, only 12% were filed in the courts. The rate of conviction is just 0.3 percent (77 offenders have been convicted), while 4,060 cases are still pending.

Problematic assertion

He put his slant on the Islamic veil & placed the onus of safety on the people he has sworn to protect. He believes that we can somehow prevent sexual violence by observing “purdah.” In his words, it would lessen the temptation from society because “not everyone has willpower.” Many people are defending him by saying that he was not just emphasizing the obligation for women, but for men too. Well, that’s still problematic.

Imran Khan’s comment perhaps points towards the general fact that there are multiple factors that influence human behavior. Still, nothing can ever rationalize the crime of rape. Even if the attire of a woman or man is not in accordance with our codes, they still don’t deserve such inhumane treatment. They still possess the legitimate right to report & expect that their complaints would be properly investigated. And we learn the same lesson from Islamic teachings. But Khan was, as usual, in a hurry to jump into resolution mode without taking time to comprehend the gravity of the issue at hand.

Imran Khan’s remarks imply that he doesn’t know all that much about the real issue after all. And his casualness about information gathering is distressing everyone who takes the issue seriously. He is in a position where the spoken words are of huge consequences. But he’d chosen to perpetuate a mindset that grants immunity to the perpetrators.

This very same mindset is the prime reason for the apparent rise of sexual violence in Pakistan.

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