India outrage after woman politician blames women for rape

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A demonstrator holds a placard as she attends a candlelight vigil to mark the first anniversary of Delhi gang rape, in New Delhi December 16, 2013.Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
In India, scrutiny of sexual violence has grown since the gang rape and murder of a student on a bus in Delhi in December 2012

There has been outrage in India after a politician, who is also a member of a government panel for women, blamed women for rape.

Asha Mirje said women too were "responsible to an extent" for rape and that their "clothing and behaviour" played a part.

Women's rights activists, the Congress party and the main opposition BJP said her comments were "unacceptable".

Ms Mirje later apologised, saying it was her "personal opinion".

In India, where a rape is recorded every 22 minutes, scrutiny of sexual violence has grown since the gang rape and murder of a student on a bus in Delhi in December 2012.

Ms Mirje is a leader of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) that governs the western Indian state of Maharashtra. She is also a member of the Maharashtra State Commission for Women.

The controversial comments were made at a meeting of the party's women workers in Nagpur city on Tuesday.

Ms Mirje asked why the Delhi gang-rape victim, called Nirbhaya (meaning fearless in Hindi) because she cannot legally be named, "was out with her friend at night". She also commented on a photojournalist who was gang-raped while on assignment at the abandoned Shakti Mills in Mumbai last year.

"Did Nirbhaya really have to go watch a movie at 11 in the night with her friend? Take the Shakti Mills gang rape case. Why did the [survivor] go to such an isolated spot at 6pm?" news channel NDTV quoted her as saying.

"Rapes take place also because of a woman's clothes, her behaviour and her being at inappropriate places," she added.

Ms Mirje's comments have sparked outrage with women's groups and political parties condemning her statement.

The All India Democratic Women's Association said Ms Mirje was "not fit to be a member" of the Maharashtra State Women's Commission.

"This comment is totally unacceptable. A member of a women's commission should not make such statements. Women should talk about empowerment and not put under constraints of dress," news channel CNN-IBN quoted senior Congress party leader Rita Bahuguna Joshi as saying.

The channel reported that Ms Mirje had defended her remarks saying she was quoted out of context.

"The complete comment was not taken. Only a part of it was projected. I was not blaming the women for rape. I had said that since we are in period of transition, we have to be extra cautious," she said.