Prime Minister Imran Khan faced a massive outpouring of criticism following his remarks on women's clothing being responsible for the rise in sexual violence in the country while talking to interviewer Jonathon Swan of Axios HBO.
He remarked, "If a woman is wearing very few clothes, it will have an impact on the men unless they are robots. It’s just common sense.”
Following this, a Twitter user started a thread asking survivors to share photos and stories of what they were wearing when they were sexually assaulted, while the hashtag #RapeApologistSelectedPM became the top Twitter trend in Pakistan.
"Pakistani women must start sharing the photos of the clothes we were wearing when we got harassed and assaulted! Just so we can be told if they meet the standards of “very less clothes” or not."
Pakistani women must start sharing the photos of the clothes we were wearing when we got harassed and assaulted! Just so we can be told if they meets the standards of “very less clothes” or not. Also men who don’t rape women please change your names to robots so we know !— Tooba (@Tooba_Sd) June 21, 2021
The replies - from all age groups - ranged from chadors to shalwar kameez, to school uniforms. One even recounted a harrowing tale of harassment in front of the Holy Kaaba.
The one time that I was harassed & I feared for my life was by a 60 year old man with grown up daughters, I was in shalwar/ Kameez with full sleeves & a chador. Wasn’t even wearing makeup, I didn’t think someone barely a couple of years younger than my father wud harass me! https://t.co/EhT8MCaUOu— Séphora (@valkyrie786) June 22, 2021
An abaya, A FREAKING ABAYA. On top of that it happened during tawaf in FRONT OF THE KAABA. The man was obviously a Pakistani because he had a bag that had the Pakistani flag on it. I was 11.— ~khadija⁷ |🇵🇸 (@khadijaaaa____) June 22, 2021
I was 7 . In one of many instances, it was a dress similar to this, full length on a prepubescent body. pic.twitter.com/M4nf8aJ2ji— Faryal Niazi 🇨🇦 (@FNiazi31) June 21, 2021
9/10 was wearing shalwar kameez, was travelling to lhr by bus with mom when this jerk kept sliding his hand through the bus seat back— Ayesha (@ayishaikon) June 21, 2021
Me and my friends in 2004...always wore this type of dressing to uni...still harassed pic.twitter.com/dfclVuHAli— Attiya Akram (@akram_attiya) June 21, 2021
I was wearing a school uniform when I was harassed. I was coming back from school in 2009. I was in 8th grade. A white two-piece uniform with a green scarf.— Mustajab Zahra Khoso (@MustajabZahra2) June 21, 2021
Another user shared photos of an exhibition at the Centre Communautaire Maritime in the Molenbeek district of Brussels that aimed to promote awareness about sexual violence. The exhibition featured recreated outfits that represent the ones people were wearing when they were assaulted, emphasizing that no outfit can prevent rape.
While some inevitably pointed out the obvious -
Why don’t people understand that its not their clothes that is being talked about. A girl in burqa will be harassed by a sick minded person. The thing being talked about here is the culture that is being brought into our society. A person sees that around him, and his sick mind— Tahir Mumtaz (@TahirMumtaz3) June 21, 2021
Not at all. There is no evidence that dress is linked with rape. Most of the rape dressed properly so temptation party has no statistical supportive evidence. Rape is about power and control not just sexual gratification. Thats why rape is being used in wars— Dr Bashir H.Shah (@DrBashirHShah1) June 22, 2021
When do people realise that rape and sexual assault is more about power, controlling another human being and domination its nothing to do with clothing. Feel so sorry for sisters out there in pakistan who faces harassment on daily basis especially who uses public transport— MARIZVI (@MARIZVI9) June 21, 2021
Many also shared the scarring instances of their religious teachers harassing them.
I was ~6 years old; wearing Kameez shalwar; a chaddar over my head and around me, and Quran in my hands. He was my Quran teacher.— Binte🦁 (@SherKiBeti) June 21, 2021
Shalwar kameez with scarf on my head and Quran in my hand. I was 10— Hunza (@__feministt) June 21, 2021
What do you wear when you study Quran, 10 years old? That.— AawishButt (@AawishB) June 21, 2021
The wave of criticism that followed PM Imran's 'apologist' comment comes four days after public outrage on Mufti Aziz-ur-Rehman's video of him sexually assaulting a seminary student circulated on social media. While talking on the topic of sodomy in religious schools is still taboo, it should be noted that sexual abuse is a pervasive and longstanding problem at Islamic schools, madrassas and mosques in Pakistan.
According to media reports, over 2,960 children were sexually abused in 2020 alone. According to a United Nations report 'A New Era for Girls: Taking stock on 25 years of progress' released in 2020, Pakistan is among the six most dangerous countries in the world for women.