The actor was speaking to BBC World News while promoting the film, in which she plays a rape survivor
The actor was speaking to BBC World News while promoting the film, in which she plays a rape survivor

There are a lot of things that contribute to rape and harassment, and the victim's conduct is not one of them, said Mahira Khan as she gears up for the release of her upcoming movie Verna.

The actor was speaking to BBC World News while promoting the film, in which she plays a rape survivor.

Sexual misconduct and workplace harassment are topics that are largely misunderstood in Pakistan, and Mahira used her interview as an opportunity to reveal some truths about these behaviours.

1) If a woman has avoided harassment, it's not because she's 'better' than her peers. Maybe it was just luck

Mahira said she hasn't come across any instances of harassment, sexual or otherwise, in her entire acting career.

Whereas some actors might attribute this to their own 'modest' behaviour or dressing (as per common perceptions of what causes harassment in Pakistan), Mahira made sure to clarify that her actions have nothing to do with this.

"I have been lucky with the people that I've worked with ─ and I have worked with very few people," she said.

2) Dressing a certain way doesn't cause harassment. Harassers cause harassment.

When asked how young actresses entering the industry can stay safe, Mahira said nobody is permitted to harass someone because of their conduct or how they dress.

"It doesn't matter how I conduct myself or what I wear or how I speak or where I sit or what I do. That does not allow anybody to harass me," Mahira said.

"So I am not gonna say I had a 'good conduct' or a 'certain conduct', and that's the reason I wasn't harassed. No, that would be the wrong answer," she added.

3) Abusers often tend to prey on people they perceive to be less powerful

Mahira pointed out that she started acting at a relatively older age than her peers, after she became a mother. So perhaps she wasn't as vulnerable as she may have been as a teenager.

Predators go after girls that are much younger and more vulnerable, Mahira said. "They may not be in a position to speak up or speak out."

"There a lot of things that are a part of this and conduct is not one of them," Mahira said.

Verna stars Mahira Khan as a rape survivor, while Haroon Shahid plays her husband. It is directed by Shoaib Mansoor.

Verna will release on November 17.

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