Anchor Imran Riaz Khan is facing a backlash for laughing and bullying a fellow journalist by claiming that he was raped in a military barrack. In a video that has gone viral on social media, Khan avoids being interviewed by Matiullah Jan, and says that Jan was raped in a military barrack back when he was a cadet at the Pakistan Military Academy. Imran and the horde of journalists around him, including anchorperson Sami Ibrahim, are heard laughing and ridiculing Jan, who then challenges them all to invite him on their shows.
Social media is outraged over Imran Riaz’s apparent trivialization of rape and sexual violence, and the way the word is being leveraged by him to humiliate a journalist who holds opposite views. The interaction in the video makes it clear that the gravity of the occurrence of rape is of no consequence to the journalists, who form a ‘boys club’ that mocks Jan as a way of dismissing him. It is clear that Imran Riaz wanted to avoid Matiullah Jan’s tough questions, as the latter is known for making politicians speechless with his line of questioning.
Imran Riaz Khan claims that Matiullah Jan was subjected to rape in a military barrack, and thinks it is a reason to laugh at and bully him. Other journalists gladly join him in ridiculing Jan, which means this behaviour is not uncommon. The sight of a group of men laughing about someone being raped is not only disgusting, but can be triggering for those who have actually gone through sexual violence. There has been no apology from these men so far. Their supporters have been gleefully sharing the video and praising them for teaching Jan a lesson.
This kind of behaviour, especially when shown by public figures, contributes to rape culture. Women (and men) are afraid of sharing their ordeal when they are sexually assaulted because the society ridicules them instead of showing empathy. That two mainstream anchors knowingly became a part of rape culture is shameful to say the least.
Use of rape analogies and belittling of victims is not unusual, and many public figures have issued similar remarks in the past. In 2020, President Arif Alvi had also made similar comments that trivialised sexual violence. He used a rape analogy while discussing corruption. Friday Times had then published an article about why using rape analogies is wrong, which is being re-posted below due to its relevance in light of social media debate following Imran Riaz’s condemnable remarks.
In an interview with anchor Hamid Mir, President Arif Alvi insensitively used a rape analogy while talking about the inquiry report pertaining to independent power producers (IPPs) which revealed irregularities in power sector causing massive loss to the national kitty. “After reading the report, I was convinced that the country has not only been raped, but gang-raped”, he said.
The president’s act of using an analogy about a crime as harrowing as gang rape is sickening as it is tantamount to trivialising sexual violence. Further, rape analogies are triggering for the survivors of sexual abuse in that they may force them to relive their traumatic lived experience. Considering that sexual violence is rampant in Pakistan, the president’s statement is highly insensitive to say the least.
One would expect the president of the country, who also happens to be a doctor, to be responsible enough to know the implications of publicly making such inconsiderate statements about a heinous crime. Coming from the head of the state, this problematic statement serves as a sad reminder of lack of gender sensitisation in Pakistan. When the president is unable to realise how belittling the trauma of the sexual abuse survivors is problematic, I shudder to imagine how the ill-trained police personnel, most of whom are also misogynist to the core, treat the victims while handling rape cases. When the survivors dare to report sexual abuse, they are made to relive the trauma by Pakistan’s flawed prosecution and justice system.
The president made these remarks while talking about corruption and irregularities in a power project, which means that he considers ‘gang rape’ to be same as robbing or stealing money. The problem with comparing rape to other crimes such as robbing is that it dehumanises the victim and implies that the survivors of rape are ‘robbed’ of their physical possessions after the crime and that their bodies are mere commodities. This perception perpetuates rape culture which includes victim-shaming.