World

Pakistan President's comments: cry rape and go to Canada, are condemned

The Pakistan president's comments that many in his country felt crying rape was an easy way to make money and move to Canada have been condemned by Prime Minister Paul Martin, Amnesty International and the woman whose case brought the issue to the world's attention.

The Pakistan president commented this week that many in his country felt crying rape was an easy way to make money and move to Canada. President Musharraf's remarks have been condemned by Prime Minister Paul Martin, Amnesty International and the woman whose case brought the issue to the world's attention.

This week, in an interview with the Washington Post newspaper, President Pervez Musharraf spoke about the case of Mukhtar Mai, a 33-year-old illiterate woman who went public about having been gang-raped on the orders of a village council in 2002. Her brother, then 12, was judged to have befriended a woman of a powerful clan.

Mai won public sympathy and government support after she demanded that the men be charged and convicted. But earlier this year Musharraf angered the Bush administration when he blocked Mai from traveling to the United States to publicize the case.

Musharraf told the Post that Mai was free to travel now -- though she has never left Pakistan -- and he had no regrets about how he handled the incident. He said Mai had come under the sway of organizations determined to harm Pakistan's image and he did not think Pakistan "should be singled out when the curse is everywhere in the world."

Musharraf then was quoted in the Post as follows: "You must understand the environment in Pakistan. This has become a moneymaking 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."

On Thursday, Musharraf was reported to have told a New York news conference that he had been expressing a commonly held opinion rather than his own.

Mukhtar Mai told Reuters she was pained by Musharraf's comments: "Nobody does it (gets raped) intentionally. A large number of women are molested and insulted in the country. How many of them have made money? Such thinking about women is not good."

Prime Minister Paul Martin said Thursday he raised the matter with the Pakistani leader during a meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. "I stated unequivocally that comments such as that are not acceptable and that violence against women is also a blight that besmirches all humanity."

London-based rights group Amnesty International said Musharraf should apologize. "This callous and insulting statement requires a public apology from President Musharraf to the women of Pakistan and especially to victims of rape, sexual assault and other forms of violence that are rampant with impunity in Pakistan. His statement is an offence to women all over the world."

Pakistan's leading English-language daily newspaper - Dawn - went after Musharraf in an editorial headlined "Wrong thing to say". "If this attitude, of blaming rape and other crimes against women on women themselves and ridiculing NGOs (non-government organisations) that take up such issues, begins to travel upward from ignorant mullahs and male chauvinists to permeate the higher echelons of the administration, then God help us," it said.

Musharraf is due to speak to an audience of Pakistani-American women in New York on Saturday.