NEW DELHI – A minister from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling party said Thursday that rape can be condoned in some circumstances, in comments that were sure to fuel national anger over sex attacks against women.
Babulal Gaur, who as home minister of central Madhya Pradesh state is responsible for law and order, said: “This is a social crime which depends on men and women. Sometimes it’s right, sometimes it’s wrong.”
Gaur, of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, told reporters that rapes could be investigated as crimes only if reported to the police. “Nothing can be done until there is a complaint,” he said.
He defended the government of northern Uttar Pradesh state, which has been the target of global outrage since the gang-rape and murder of two teenage girls in the village of Katra Shahadatganj last week.
Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav faced severe criticism for his perceived insensitivity over the attacks on the low-caste girls, who were found hanging from a mango tree after multiple sexual assaults. When asked by reporters about a sharp rise in rape cases in the country’s most populous state, he replied, “It’s not as if you faced any danger.”
Yadav’s father, Mulayam Singh, leader of the Samajwadi Party, was also the target of public anger in April when he told an election rally that he opposed the recently introduced death penalty for gang-rapists, saying “boys make mistakes.”
Gaur stood up for the Yadav father-son pair Thursday, saying “there is no information on who will rape someone, they happen unpredictably.” Of rape, Gaur said, “What can helpless Mulayam or Akhilesh do about it?”
Modi, who won a landslide election victory last month, has yet to comment on his colleague’s controversial comments, but the BJP has distanced itself from Gaur, saying his views are not those of the party.
According to Indian government statistics, a rape occurs in the country every 22 minutes. Activists say the figure is conservative, however, as many rapes go unreported in the nation of 1.2 billion, where victims of sexual crime are often publicly shamed.
India toughened sex assault laws following the fatal gang-rape of a student on a bus in New Delhi in December 2012, which sparked nationwide protests, but the move has done little to stem the stream of attacks.
Just days after the Uttar Pradesh rape-murders, rebels reportedly shot dead a woman in northeast India on Wednesday when she resisted their attempt to gang-rape her.
Police said the 35-year-old mother of four was at home in a remote village of Meghalaya state when militants of the outlawed Garo National Liberation Army, a tribal rebel group, barged in late Tuesday. They locked her husband and children inside a room before turning on her, police said.
“The woman was shot dead by Garo National Liberation Army rebels after she resisted their attempt to molest and rape her,” local police Chief Lakardor Syiem said. The rebels were armed with automatic rifles, Syiem said.
The Garo National Liberation Army is one of five tribal rebel groups fighting for a separate “Garoland” to be carved out of Meghalaya.