The chief executive of one of Pakistan‘s most influential newspapers has denied accusations he raped an acclaimed filmmaker, in a case that has spotlighted sexual abuse targeting men and added momentum to the country’s fledgling #MeToo movement.
Director Jamshed Mahmood Raza took to social media over the weekend to allege that Dawn newspaper’s Hameed Haroon raped him 13 years ago.
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In October, Raza first described the assault publicly on Twitter but referred to the alleged perpetrator as a “powerful person in our media world”.
Haroon – who hails from one of Pakistan’s wealthiest and most influential families – issued a fierce denial in Dawn, the country’s most popular English newspaper, late on Monday, calling the accusations “simply untrue and intentionally fabricated”.
“I categorically deny the allegation of rape levelled against me,” said Haroon in a statement.
Raza later slammed Haroon’s comments, saying the statement was “nothing but a slap to all us survivors”.
The allegations have again stirred controversy in the deeply conservative country, where most discussions about sex and abuse are considered taboo.
Some voices have called for accountability, while others dismissed notions of male-on-male sexual assault.
“I have a question: how can a grown man be raped by another individual? Couldn’t they have fought him off,” tweeted writer Salman Rashid.
“Rape is not only about physical power; it is about power in general. If a powerful person coerces you to have sex with them, that is rape,” wrote Nida Kirmani on Twitter.
The #MeToo and #Timesup campaigns have gone global since allegations of sexual misconduct by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein were made in 2017, sparking an avalanche of accusations against other powerful men.
However, the movement has been slow to catch on in Pakistan, where women have fought for their rights for years in a patriarchal society where so-called “honour” killings and attacks on women remain commonplace.
Cases and allegations involving men assaulting other men have been even more rarely discussed in the country.