Prime Minister Khan and his evergreen misogyny

Trigger warning: sexual violence, reader discretion advised

So Prime Minister Imran Khan has been at it again. It seems a completely unwarranted tirade against women now and then is quintessential to his political and otherwise existence. At this stage, it is the surprise expressed at his comments that is surprising.

Circa June 2018, shortly before his seminal election into power and to the position of the country’s premier, Khan made the following comments in an interview,

“A mother has the biggest influence on children… I disagree with this western concept, this feminist movement it has degraded the role of a mother. My mother had the greatest impact on my life”

Formal feminism advocacy, dating back to the 1970s with Mary Wollstonecraft’s “Vindication of the Rights of Women” to the Women’s Suffrage movement, saw women sometimes even giving up their lives, just to ensure that women that came after them have the right to vote. Furthermore, the very same movements have paved the way for the working woman to be able to ask for a better work environment as well as to have equal rights to education.

When did it ever become about demeaning motherhood? At its core, feminism through all its evolved shapes and forms was always about having equal rights – the same rights that enable women to go to polling stations and cast a vote in favour of Mr Khan.

But I digress and I said before the element of surprise is quite unnecessary, even as his recent comments solely place the blame of a crime as heinous as rape, squarely on a woman’s shoulders. Or more precisely the shoulders of women that are scantily clad. 

One has to wonder though, how has it escaped the man at the apex of power in the country, the head of its central government, that children, animals, older women, people of the transgender community and even men are raped? Or that rape is often accompanied with the most grotesque violence and usually has no connection with lust.

If I think of the women who I know were rape survivors, one was violated inside her house when she was a nine year old child, another was sexually assaulted by her uncle when she was just five and one was raped during a break in to her house as an act to subdue her resistance.

 If I had to look for evidence of the fallacy of the prime minister’s claims, I need not look far. Just from a small sample though, the pattern that emerges is clear: rape is being used as a form of abuse over a vulnerable and weaker victim, and as an act of torture.

 I myself remember being assaulted when I was 14 years old and subjected to unwanted physical contact and I remember clearly what I was wearing, needless to say, the scantily clad stereotype didn’t apply to me either.

Countless other friends, relatives and professional colleagues have narrated similar incidents where they were either abused as children or were in vulnerable positions. Many survivors said they were subjected to an act of sexual intimidation – or worse.

Staying with the point he made about the clothing for a moment though, interestingly, I was contacted a few months ago with a request to provide pro bono assistance to a lady who had been pursuing a sexual harassment case at the Ombudsman’s office. She was finding the experience too harrowing to deal with on her own, especially because of the pot-shots taken at her and her observance of complete purdah (veil) by the man accused of the harassment.

Thankfully, criticism in the multitudes has come forth, rightly calling Khan’s comments simplistic and misogynistic to say the least. It is still heart breaking though, that many have still come to his defence or touted the cliché of his comments being “taken out of context”. When men call us harlots, there is always a context, isn’t there?

What seems to be missed in the conversation at present though is just the unfairness of it all. Here is an elected prime minister, at the helm of affairs in the midst of a pandemic, mounting economic difficulties and joblessness, environmental catastrophe hanging right over our heads, housing crises, soaring food costs, all issues placing multitudes at the brink of starvation – and his primary concern at any given moment is us, the evil spirited women, walking around driving poor men to the point of committing rape.

Yet again, here we are, having to defend ourselves. Having to make ourselves heard, having to call out the victim blaming culture that we just can’t seem to progress out of.

Countless men and women alike have taken to social media, making references to the           Quran that requires men to lower their gaze before asking women to dress modestly. And despite what the pm says, the Quran does not even allude to the fact that men are unable to control their desires to the point of violating another human’s body with forcible penetration.

What makes the deplorability of the situation worse is that, not too long ago, Pakistan was the only country that conflated consensual sex with rape, and women who had suffered the latter were required to provide four eye – witnesses or could face punishment for false accusation, something that is only required in the case of rape. These draconian legal requirements came about due to the same misunderstanding of the Islamic injunctions that are evident by the present discourse. When the remarks of the nation’s premier clearly seem to lean towards the previous dark chapters of our history, there is not only reason to call him out but to also be alarmed.

Despite all the criticism that has very publicly come forth, an apology from Khan seems unlikely. Again, it isn’t surprising from a man who has been bashing women since before his election to power. For all the things that he seeks to blame women for, perhaps voting him in can be included in his list.