Prime Minister Imran Khan’s recent statement linking incidences of rape to obscenity, pointing particularly to the way women dress, has not gone down well with the general public. In light of the statement, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has demanded an “immediate apology” from the PM and has asked for “renewed commitment” by officials towards understanding and addressing the issue. Furthermore, activists and rights campaigners have also accused the PTI leader of “baffling ignorance”, claiming that such statements are not just factually incorrect but also highly dangerous. Rape is perpetuated not because of Western attire but is primarily grounded on the need to enforce power, authority and strength.
The views presented by the PM not only depict how twisted and trivialised the idea of rape has become but it highlights the very real patriarchal mindset of the nation. One cannot outright “blame the victim” by saying that it is difficult for men, perpetrators, to control their urges. If this were the case then as many as 1,489 children wouldn’t have been abused in the first half of 2020; nor would victims, in 98 of these cases, be between the ages of one to five. According to a separate study, a deplorable 0.3% of male rapists have been convicted in the past 6 years since victims are often viewed with suspicion while most cases are settled by force. These glaring statistics indicate that the underlying factors of rape are much more complex than we care to believe.
Let us look at the issue from a different lens. Evolutionary psychologists believe that men have evolved psychological mechanism that motivate them to rape: there are disadvantaged men, specialised rapists, high-mating-effort rapists, opportunistic rapists and partner rapists. Now, these psychological mechanisms are further heavily dependent on societal norms and socio-economic conditions — ranging from ideas of gender and sexuality to conditions of poverty, inflation and inequality. A culmination of all of this gives rise to a culture of rape in which rape is pervasive and normalised.
A modern welfare state should ideally be the opposite; a safe state where freedoms and rights of all citizens, regardless of gender, are upheld. While the state has started amending the archaic zina laws, it needs to seriously address the issue of awareness.