Imran Khan covers up his sexism with more sexism — again

He says he isn't a rape apologist, but his own interviews betray him.
06 Feb, 2023

Imran Khan says he isn’t a rape apologist. Yet every time he speaks to the foreign press, he comes across as a rape apologist. We wonder why.

It can’t be that his words are being mistranslated — he’s clearly speaking in English. He has been educated at Oxford, after going to premiere educational institutions in Pakistan, and considers England his “second home” so he definitely knows the language.

It can’t be that he doesn’t understand the question, especially when it’s put to him so clearly. Could it be that he has a skewed understanding of what it means to be a rape apologist? We think so.

Being a rape apologist means that you provide justifications for rape or assault. There are no ifs and buts when it comes to it — rapists rape people, victims do not do anything to ‘invite’ assault.

Imran started off strong in his interview with the New Yorker — “How can anyone blame women for rape? Tell me, how can any sensible person ever make such a stupid comment? Look, the rapist is always to be blamed. Always. Simple. Full stop.”

He discussed crime statistics and said, “In the case of a woman getting raped, she’s marked for life”. “But even worse is when children get abused; that stays with them for the rest of their life. The ideas that came forward were, one, that we must bring down the level of temptation in our society, because you have a lot of frustrated people. Now, this is coming from civil society. And secondly, how do we educate children in schools to stop this child abuse?”

Yes, he used the ultimate buzzword when talking about sexual abuse — temptation. As if the person being assaulted is at fault because of the implication that the assaulter was powerless to resist said temptation.

“Well, the temptation is not women walking the streets with less clothes. Temptation is social media. On our mobile phones children now have access to information,” said the former premier. “But, at the same time, the level of the pornographic stuff on a mobile phone, which is available to children of seven and eight years old — never in human history have children been exposed to that.”

That’s all fine — a bit misguided because the issue has more to do with our society and its emphasis on policing women than seven-year-olds with mobile phones but still fine. But the real kicker was when he was asked about his earlier sexist comments about journalist Gharida Farooqi in which he said she was asking to be harassed online as she was “invading male-dominated spaces”.

“No. No. No. It wasn’t out of context. Look, in our society, we were … it was just in one particular rally where they were all men, and she was right in the middle of this male crowd. It’s just that … I mean, anyone who knows Pakistani society, or most sorts of societies like India or Pakistan — if you put yourself in that position, you are going to be vulnerable. It’s just common sense. Yes, the men are to be blamed if they do anything. But also it works two ways, you should all … in our society, normally, people would avoid putting themselves in that position. It’s as simple as that,” said our sage former prime minister.

“Isaac, we have brilliant women journalists in this country. They are doing a great job. But they don’t have to put themselves in positions — and let me just say, it was a specific situation I was talking about, because we actually tried to get her out of the situation.”

The idea that a woman doing her job is “putting herself” in any kind of position that results in her getting harassed is laughable. The focus should not be on “get[ting] her our of the situation,” it should be on stopping that situation from being created. Removing women from public spaces isn’t the answer, Mr Khan. He easily overlooks the fact that her job requires her to be in difficult situations, just like her male colleagues. But since she’s a female, she must take precaution because the men in our society clearly can’t be trusted.

Every time our esteemed former prime minister speaks to international publications, he digs a deeper hole for himself. He compounds his sexist remarks with even more baffling sexist remarks in an attempt to absolve himself of the blame being heaped on his head from his previous sexist remarks, creating a never-ending cycle of sexist remarks and rape apologies. The simple — and rather obvious — solution here would be to just stop talking. Stop making more sexist comments, stop commenting on what women should and shouldn’t do and stop trying to police women.

No woman is asking for it or inviting it or putting themselves in a position of any sort which would result in rape. The way to combat rape is to stop rapists, not stop women from doing their jobs.

While people may argue that we’re belabouring the point and nitpicking, the F-9 park rape is illustrative of what happens when men believe women are putting themselves in dangerous ‘positions’. The two men who raped a woman in Islamabad’s F-9 park on Thursday told the woman, after raping her, “not come to the park at this time”. She was at a centrally located park at 8pm in the capital of our country. Not to mention the Islamabad Police’s solution as of now is to request people to stay around the well-lit areas.

We may be tired of talking about Imran Khan’s sexist comments but the fact of the matter is, when men like him — with a massive following — say things like this, it emboldens rapists and assaulters to perpetuate acts of violence against women and then justify it by saying they put themselves in a ‘position’. It lets other men think the women in their homes need to be locked up or are inviting assault.

It may be tiring and frustrating to continuously remind Imran Khan of how he keeps putting his foot in his mouth, but as long as women are raped and harassed in this country and people justify it, we will continue to call out politicians and public figures who are rape apologists.