Friday, September 30, 2005

Hundreds of women have demonstrated in Pakistan demanding the country's president apologise for controversial remarks about female rape victims

BBC News:

Many abused women live in conservative rural areas

Protesters carried banners and placards and heard speeches denouncing Pervez Musharraf's comments, made in the US.

Gen Musharraf said that rape had become an opportunity to make money and emigrate, but also insisted his government supported women's rights.

He denied making the remarks, but the comments are available on the internet.

In Islamabad, human rights activist Hina Jillani told the crowds that the president's remarks were an insult to women, and called for an "unqualified apology" from Mr Musharraf.

The rally, held close to the presidential palace and Pakistan's parliament, was organised by the Joint Action Committee, a grouping of womens' groups and human rights activists.

Gen Musharraf was interviewed by the Washington Post while in the US on 13 September.

He was quoted as saying: "You must understand the environment in Pakistan. This has become a money-making concern.

"A lot of people say if you want to go abroad and get a visa for Canada or citizenship and be a millionaire, get yourself raped."

The remarks prompted an official protest by the Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin.

Gen Musharraf quickly denied making the comments, but the Washington Post has since made an audio recording of the interview available on its website.

Many Pakistani women routinely face abuse and rape in a male-dominated society.

Incidents of violent rape have caused outrage in recent years, with victims like Mukhtaran Mai and Dr Shazia Khalid highlighting the issue.

Ms Mai, an illiterate 33-year-old woman, was gang-raped in 2002, apparently on the orders of a village council.

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