Reham Khan… was she appointed to child ambassador role on merit or celebrity status? (Image, Reham Khan, Twitter)
Reham Khan, journalist and TV talk show host who claims to speak out against domestic and child abuse in Pakistan is confusing and lacking in consistency in her rhetoric. In a tweet posted on August 17th 2015, Khan stated,
“If a woman who is attacked hides away & doesn’t show courage other women will continue to be attacked.
#misogynist culture must be changed”
“Rape victims do not report as they fear the consequences but that means the rapist is free to attack others. Raise your voice for others.”
This is a surprising U- turn from Khan who admitted she kept quiet regarding alleged abuse within her first marriage. According to Express Tribune, (January 2015) Reham Khan only opened up during a TV interview after divorce stating,
‘Thanks to Allah, I am not scarred by my experience. Domestic violence is a big issue and no attention is paid to it in Pakistan. [It] happens in many shapes and forms”
“I have never spoken about my personal experience of domestic violence because I was in [the] media and I felt it would be unfair to expose the other party”
Khan’s former husband, Dr Ijaz Rehman an NHS psychiatrist living in Lincolnshire vehemently denies the allegations and was reported in the Daily Mail as stating, ‘what Reham said about domestic violence was in order for her to be seen in good light and come out as an innocent victim to cover her deeds, at my expense.’
Khan appeared to choose silence during her marriage but now expects other alleged victims to speak out against their abusers. At a recent conference she said, “women should resist domestic violence because if your son observes abuse in his house, he will take a negative message and might also abuse his wife in the future.” Khan does not seem very good at following her own advice given her comments regarding her own family revelations.
It is interesting to reflect on the words of Erin Pizzey, world renowned campaigner who has helped change attitudes on violence within the home. Pizzey highlighted that both sexes are capable and can be involved in physical and emotional abuse within a relationship, she states,
“in 1971 I opened the first refuge in the world for victims of domestic violence. I was running a small community project in Chiswick, a London suburb, when a woman came in and showed me her bruises. I took her home that night, and from then on women with their children poured through the door. My little community centre became the first refuge in the world for all victims of domestic violence.
Because from the beginning I was aware that domestic violence was not a gender issue, I opened a refuge for men in North London. It closed for lack of support and funding. I was aware that of the first hundred women who came into the refuge, sixty-two were as violent or, in some cases, more violent than the men they left behind. I wrote up my findings in A Comparative Study of Battered Women and Violence-Prone Women, as yet unpublished. I believe that violence in interpersonal relationships is a learned pattern of behaviour that is acquired in early childhood.
Some children who are exposed to violence at the hands of their primary carers, usually their mothers and fathers, internalise the abusive behaviour and thereafter use violence and abuse as a strategy for survival.”
All victims of domestic violence should be heard but they must be supported and in a safe environment to do so or they may be exposed to even greater personal risk. Male rape victims are as much in need of support as females. In Pakistan young women that are abused fear being exposed for loss of virginity, especially where their religion may consider purity entering marriage as important. Young boys fear how they will be perceived having been violated by men especially if their faith regards same sex contact as inappropriate, forbidden.
Recently, Channel 4 “Pakistan’s Hidden Shame documentary” highlighted that in the north-western city of Peshawar, “9 out of every 10 street children have been sexually abused” many are young boys. As 9 year old Mohammad pointed out, “I get bothered a lot. The bus driver, the van guy, sometimes they tell me to climb on the roof of the bus and do bad things with them.”
Reham Khan who is now married to Imran Khan, Chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) was recently appointed as an Ambassador for Street Children by provincial government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Khan tweeted the following highlighting her role after he and Reham came under criticism for alleged “family politics” from PTI supporters that accuse the party of double standards.
“Reham Khan will not contest elections on a PTI ticket”
“Reham Khan already has too much on her plate, esp working with street children. In future, she will not attend any PTI function/event”
There have been numerous press reports globally in recent years of celebrities being co-opted to campaign for kids without appropriate checks being made. Given Reham Khan’s recent “misinformation” over her qualifications, it is essential to ask whether she has been cleared officially to work with vulnerable adults and children and does she have the relevant qualifications and experience for the job?
For example a basic degree in general education is not the same as having specific training in dealing with child abuse. Interviewing well known personalities on TV is different to being trained in counselling of juveniles. Misguided individuals believe that because a person isn’t being paid, background checks, qualifications and relevant experience don’t matter. They do…
As the late Jimmy Saville, TV presenter demonstrated in the UK, it was exactly this type of situation that enabled him to allegedly exploit and abuse hundreds of children who were wrongly believed to be safe in his presence! Those who claim to be advocates for the abused should let trained professionals (who claim they are being sidelined and are underfunded) do their job. Celebrities should stop pretending to be overnight experts outside their field, this is of little help to abused children. There is no incentive for individuals to study and work hard to learn skills in working with abused children if a celebrity can be appointed to a post at a whim over those with years of dedication and experience in their vocation. The public has become so obsessed with celebrity status they are now blind to those that do the grassroots hard work.
Carol Anne Grayson is an independent writer/researcher on global health/human rights/WOT and is Executive Producer of the Oscar nominated, Incident in New Baghdad . She is a Registered Mental Nurse with a Masters in Gender, Culture and Development. Carol was awarded the ESRC, Michael Young Prize for Research 2009, and the COTT ‘Action = Life’ Human Rights Award’ for “upholding truth and justice”. She is also a survivor of US “collateral damage”.