Viral comment by Imran Khan on human rights, women’s rights misrepresented

Khan’s comment caused outrage in many quarters


Claim: In his speech at the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation’s (OIC) Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) meeting regarding Afghanistan held in Islamabad, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said, “Human rights and women rights are different.”

Fact: Posts sharing the quote are misrepresenting Khan’s words and missing context; referring to Afghanistan, the prime minister actually said, “Every society’s idea of human rights and women’s rights are different.”

On 20 December 2021, an image of the prime minister from the OIC moot overlaid with the text, “Human rights and women rights are different: Imran Khan,” started making the rounds on social media. The image started circulating a day after Khan addressed the 17th Extraordinary Session of the OIC CFM, which was focused on the ongoing situation in Afghanistan.

The visual immediately went viral and was shared by activists, journalists, and members of the public with many condemning what appeared to be a controversial remark by Khan, who is in some circles believed to hold regressive views regarding women’s rights (see here, here, here, and here). But there were some commentators on social media who doubted the quote, while users said it simply reflected a matter of cultural relativism.

Soch Fact Check conducted a CrowdTangle analysis using the search term, “Human rights women rights different imran khan.” The analysis revealed that since 18 December, the search term has received 12,167 interactions across 45 Facebook posts and 1,515 interactions on one Instagram post.

Moreover, some Indian outlets also picked up the claim and reshared it, seemingly in an attempt  to build support for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the country’s right-wing elements.

Three Indian pages — India With MODI, Arnab Goswami and Republic Fan Club, and Namo for 2024 — shared the image in question, getting 624 reactions and 64 shares, 201 reactions and 21 shares, and 101 reactions 15 shares, respectively. Moreover, Republic TV also carried a misleading headline, attributing to Khan the quote, “Every society’s human & women’s rights different [sic].”

A screenshot of the news report was also shared by Indian analyst and activist Sonam Mahajan.

Soch Fact Check traced the main claim back to The Current, a news-lifestyle platform, with the quote in the report’s headline exactly matching the text superimposed on the image. The photo of the prime minister used in the claim in question is the same as the one in The Current’s report.

The same headline was also used by People Magazine Pakistan. However, Express Tribune highlighted a different portion of Khan’s speech, where the prime minister said, “When we’re talking about human rights and women rights, we have to be sensitive about this.”

Soch Fact Check viewed multiple videos of the OIC event where Khan spoke and found that the posts attributing the quote in question to Khan are misleading and missing important context. The prime minister, in fact, said, “Now the point is, we must understand that every — when we talk about human rights — every society is different. Every society’s idea of human rights and women rights are different.”

The exact quote can be heard at the 3:47 mark, 4:33 mark, 4:35 mark, and 1:12:13 mark on the YouTube channels of Prime Minister’s Office Pakistan, Samaa TV, ARY News, and Geo News, respectively.

While some may regard what the prime minister said to be incorrect, what Khan said was that different societies have different conceptions of human rights and women’s rights, not that the two sets of rights are different by definition or to be distinguished from one another.

Conclusion: Khan told the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) meeting held in Islamabad, “Every society’s idea of human rights and women’s rights are different”. He did not say, “Human rights and women rights are different.” The prime minister’s quote was misrepresented and the posts in question are misleading.

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