Jun 26, 2021 - World

Pakistani PM's comments on women's clothing, sexual assault spark protests

Civil society activists take part in a demonstration in Karachi on June 26, 2021 protesting against Pakistan Prime Minister's comments.

Civil society activists take part in a demonstration in Karachi on June 26, protesting Pakistan Prime Minister's comments. Photo: RIZWAN TABASSUM/AFP via Getty Images

Pakistan's prime minister sparked protests this week after suggesting during an interview with Axios' Jonathan Swan that there would be fewer sexual assaults in the country if women dressed modestly.

The big picture: When asked by Swan if the clothes women wear could provoke acts of sexual violence, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said: "It depends on which society you live in. If in a society where people haven’t seen that sort of thing, it will have an impact on them."

  • Khan's comments drew nationwide protests and calls for a public apology, according to the Washington Post.

Driving the news: Some women in Pakistan responded to Khan's comments by sharing photos of the clothes they were wearing when they were sexually harassed, per the Washington Post.

  • Women also shared anecdotes about inappropriate behavior they have experienced, even when dressed conservatively in traditional headscarves and shalwar kameez.
  • At a protest on Saturday, women were encouraged to bring clothing that they or somebody they know were wearing when they experienced sexual violence.

What they're saying: “This is dangerously simplistic and only reinforces the common public perception that women are ‘knowing’ victims and men ‘helpless’ aggressors,” the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and more than a dozen other civil society groups said in a statement published on June 24.

  • “For the head of government — a government that claims to defend the rights of women and vulnerable groups — to insist on this view is simply inexcusable.”
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