ISLAMABAD -- Feminists in Pakistan continued Thursday to demand an apology from Prime Minister Imran Khan for apparently blaming women for sexual violence, despite his government claiming that his words were distorted.
In recent days, Khan has been facing a barrage of criticism from human rights groups and feminists after suggesting that women who decline to wear a veil were contributing to an increase in sexual assault
"I think that the prime minister of Pakistan is a sexist, misogynist, patriarchal monster. And he must resign," veteran activist Tahira Abdullah told EFE during a small protest in Islamabad.
During a live Q-and-A television interview with the public last weekend, Khan said that Pakistani women should dress modestly to remove "temptation" because "not everyone has willpower."
"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," the twice-divorced Khan said responding to questions from people.
Khan, a former cricket star once known for a playboy lifestyle, added that "in any society where vulgarity is prevalent, there are consequences."
"If Zainab had been wearing a burka would she have been raped or not?" asked the veteran feminist referring to the rape and murder of a seven-year old girl in 2018 that led to widespread outrage.
Surrounded by placards against blaming victims of sexual violence and demanding an apology from Khan, the activist was unable to hide her anger.
Standing beside her, Isha, a young student, too called for an apology from the politician. "I think that he should go on TV and apologize."
The government issued a statement late Wednesday alleging that Khan's words had been distorted.
"Unfortunately, part of his comment, consciously or unconsciously, has been distorted to mean something that he never intended," it said.
However, it was insufficient to placate human rights and feminist groups.
The independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan also criticized Khan's remarks and demanded an apology.
"Not only does this display a baffling ignorance of where, why and how rape occurs, but it also lays the blame on rape survivors," the commission said in a statement.
Sexual assaults against women and children have provoked outrage in Pakistan over the past few years.
In one of the most controversial cases, a police commander wondered aloud in a televised interview year how the family of a woman raped on a highway in front of her two children had allowed her to go out at night.