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Pakistan’s prime minister, Imran Khan, is facing backlash after he blamed victims of rape for wearing “very few clothes”.

Speaking to Axios about the “rape epidemic” in Pakistan, he made comments that led to huge criticism from women’s rights groups. He said: “If a woman is wearing very few clothes, it will have an impact on the man unless they are robots. It’s common sense.”

Reacting to his statement, more than a dozen women’s rights groups, including the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, released a statement demanding an apology. “This is dangerously simplistic and only reinforces the common public perception that women are ‘knowing’ victims and men ‘helpless’ aggressors,” they said.

Meanwhile, Maryam Nawaz, the vice-president of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and daughter of the former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, said Khan was a “rape apologist” and that people who validated rape had the same mindset as the perpetrators.

Kanwal Ahmed, a campaigner for women’s rights, tweeted: “Makes my heart shudder to think how many rapists feel validated today with the prime minister backing their crime.”

And weekend protests have been organised in the cities of Karachi and Lahore.

It comes after Khan was accused of “baffling ignorance” earlier this year after he advised women to cover up to prevent rape. At the time, his team said his comment had been misinterpreted.

Speaking to Axios, he said these comments were “nonsense” and claimed he was referring to Islam’s “concept of purdah” which is to “avoid temptation of society”, often done through covering oneself.