Misogyny, by Imran

By blaming women’s attire for rape, Pakistan PM has put his last progressive pretension behind the purdah

For someone who has lived a storied life, as player and playboy, cricket captain and prime minister, Imran Khan could have been an exception. But, here he is, doing what all disappointing men in power do: Blaming it on women. The Pakistan PM, who prefers a homily to action as much as any other politician, responded to questions of rising sexual crimes in Pakistan with a lecture on modesty. The purdah, he said, was necessary if hapless men without “will power” had to be saved from the “temptation” of raping women. He went on to denounce an epidemic of “vulgarity”, and hinted darkly at Bollywood’s role in turning Delhi into a “rape capital”. Just the kind of fervour that would have made indignant uncles on this side of the border proud, especially those who go around taking offence to women in ripped jeans and female political rivals who show off a plastered leg.

Such regressive loose talk from a PM has grim implications in a country in which the connections between rape and patriarchal bias of family and religion are rarely acknowledged, in which women taking out a march for gender justice are accused of “blasphemy”. Not surprisingly, activists and women have reacted with horror at Khan’s insistence that women bear the responsibility of sexual assault. That includes ex-wife Jemima Khan, who quoted the Quran back at Khan, and tennis ace Martina Navratilova, who said it was a shame Khan chooses “not to be better” than this.

Unlike women, men in patriarchal societies are rarely disqualified because they have a past, even if it is as colourful as Khan’s. All they need to do is to put their progressive pretensions behind the purdah and join the old boys’ club. For Khan, who has pulled off the transformation from a sex symbol in the “reprobate” West to playing footsie with Islamic fundamentalists to keep the focus off an imploding economy and shrinking geopolitical power, this is all in a day’s work.

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