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‘Clothing Has Nothing to Do With Rape’

by Newsweek Pakistan

File photo of PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari. Rizwan Tabassum—AFP

PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari describes Prime Minister Imran Khan’s comments as ‘unfortunate’ and calls for uniform laws against sexual violence

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Tuesday urged Prime Minister Imran Khan to carefully weigh every word before speaking, and described as “unfortunate” an interview during which the premier listed reasons he believes contribute to sexual violence in Pakistan.

“Clothing has nothing to do with rape,” Bhutto-Zardari told media outside Parliament House in Islamabad. “There should be a uniform law for [sexual] abusers and survivors,” he added.

In the interview, which was broadcast by U.S. network HBO, Khan says women wearing “few clothes” can incite temptation in men who may not be able to control themselves. Similarly, he blamed the proliferation of mobile phones among children as a cause of a surge in sexual abuse of minors, and “objectionable” content in Hollywood and Bollywood movies for exposing Pakistanis to subject matters that they did not understand.

The PPP chairman said it was dangerous for anyone to voice comments that come across as victim-blaming. “We should always support the survivor and not give any excuse to the perpetrator,” he said. “When a prime minister says such things, the message conveyed is that you are justifying the culprit for the crime they have committed and holding the survivor responsible for it,” he explained, adding that Pakistani culture was clear on how men and women should dress in public.

“You should compare his [Imran Khan’s] statements from before he came to power with his statements now,” he said, noting that the prime minister also struggled with identifying terrorists. “He is a coward from day one. He is not even ready to call [former Tehreek-e-Taliban spokesman] Ehsanullah Ehsan a terrorist, the man responsible for the death of children in the Army Public School attack,” he said and referred to comments by Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi during an interview with an Afghan broadcaster last week during which he had responded with “I will let that pass” to a question on whether or not he believed Al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden was a “martyr.”

Noting that bin Laden had attempted to attack the late Benazir Bhutto in 1993, and attempted a “revolt” just a year later, the PPP chairman stressed that it was the former Al Qaeda chief who had damaged Islam’s perception globally. He said Islam was a religion of peace and commentary from Pakistan’s leadership should reflect this.

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