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Pakistani police chief faces backlash for suggesting rape victim should have been accompanied by a man

The controversy started after a woman was allegedly gang raped in Lahore.

Women in Lahore condemn the gang rape of a woman in the city
Women in Lahore condemn the gang rape of a woman in the city
Image: K.M. Chaudary

A PAKISTANI POLICE chief has faced a backlash after suggesting that the victim of an alleged gang rape was to blame because she was driving at night without a male companion.

The controversy started after a woman was allegedly assaulted and raped by multiple men in front of her two children when her car ran out of fuel late on Wednesday.

Lahore police chief Umar Sheikh repeatedly chided the victim for driving without a man at night while speaking to media about the incident, adding that no one in Pakistani society would “allow their sisters and daughters to travel alone so late”.

Sheikh went on to say the victim – a resident of France – probably “mistook that Pakistani society is just as safe” as her home country.

Human rights minister Shireen Mazari said the police chief’s remarks were unacceptable.

“Nothing can ever rationalise the crime of rape,” she added.

Lawyer and woman’s rights activist Khadija Siddiqi said that Sheikh’s comments were part of an unfortunate and “very rampant” culture of victim blaming in Pakistan.

Protests were planned in cities across Pakistan on Friday, and Sheikh’s comments sparked demands for his resignation.

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“We are angry, we demand his removal and we demand his apology,” said Nighat Dad, a women’s rights activist and one of the organisers of an annual women’s rights march in Lahore.

Activists in Pakistan have frequently denounced pervasive, sometimes deadly violence by men – usually male relatives – against women who break those taboos such as choosing their own husband or working outside the home.

Around a thousand Pakistani women are murdered in honour killings each year – in which the victim, normally a woman, is killed by a relative for bringing shame on the family.

- © AFP 2020

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