In the call show, Khan also attacked Hollywood and the Indian cinema centre known as Bollywood as purveyors of obscenity and vulgarity that he said contribute to rape, high divorce rates and the break-up of family units in society.
“If our religion gives us the concept of observing veil, then there is some philosophy behind it and the philosophy is to save the family system and to protect the society from such things,” Khan said.
Khan’s information advisor Raoof Hasan said the Prime Minister’s remarks were misinterpreted and claimed he advocated a “holistic” approach to sexual assault that includes both strong legal repercussions for rapists and sexual predators and efforts by society as a whole working to find remedies.
“Plucking a single line out distorts the prospective and does not serve the cause of the actual statement,” Hasan said.
A government statement quoted Khan as having said on the subject of sexual assault: “The whole society needs to fight it collectively. There are some wars which are won by societies.”
Pakistan has been rocked by high-profile sexual attacks, including an assault in September of a mother gang-raped before her children after their car broke down on a major freeway at night. The following day a senior police official questioned why the woman was alone, had not checked her gas gage before travelling or chosen a busier road. Activist calls for his censure were ignored.
In the first six months of last year, nearly 1500 children were sexually assaulted in Pakistan, according to Sahil, a charity that monitors and fights sexual abuse of children. The figures represent only those that are reported in the more than 80 national, provincial and regional publications that the organisation monitors.
Critics say Khan’s statements are reflective of Pakistan’s patriarchy and culture of impunity.
“It is regrettable that the Prime Minister does not appear to understand just how vulnerable and unsafe women are in this society,” political analyst and author Zahid Hussain wrote in a commentary on Wednesday. “It is a failure of our law enforcement, as well as the prevailing culture of impunity that makes women insecure.”