After his remarks on rape unleashed outrage across the country, Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav on Friday attempted damage control, saying no one respects women more than his party.
The National Commission for Women (NCW) sent a notice to the SP chief after he said on Thursday it was unfair to award the death penalty to rapists for their ‘mistakes’.
Yadav, however, stuck to his stand on Friday that the new anti-rape law was “wrong” and should be amended so that those who are innocent are not framed. He faced more flak with RJD supremo Lalu Prasad saying Yadav seems to have lost his “mental balance”. The Congress and the BJP have also demanded an apology from the SP leader.
“Rape ke liye phaansi dena ghalat hai, ladkon se ghalti ho jaati hai, hum satta mein aaye to kanoon mein badlav karenge (Handing death sentence for rape is not fair... boys make mistakes... there will be changes in the law if we come to power)," an ANI tweet quoted Mulayam as saying.
Watch video: Boys err at times, wrong to hang rapists, says Mulayam
It appeared like the Samajwadi Party's leaders were trying to outdo each other by making one shocking statement after the other. After Yadav's comment on Friday, the party’s Maharashtra unit chief Abu Azmi said women, including rape victims, who have sex outside marriage should be hanged. However, unlike Yadav, Azmi did not issue any clarification after his comments kicked up a row.
Azmi told Mid-day when asked for a solution to the problem of rapes: "Any woman if, whether married or unmarried, goes along with a man, with or without her consent, should be hanged.
Both should be hanged. It shouldn't be allowed even if a woman goes by consent."
"Rape is punishable by hanging in Islam. But here, nothing happens to women, only to men. Even the woman is guilty. Girls complain when someone touches them, and even when someone doesn't touch them. It becomes a problem then... If rape happens with or without consent, it should be punished as prescribed in Islam."
Azmi went on to say that the solution to rape was hanging both the man and woman. He also defended his party chief by saying Mulayam respects women.
This isn't the first time Azmi has made such statements. After the 2012 Delhi gang rape, he had said women should not roam around with men other than their relatives and blamed scantily-clad women for such incidents.
In UP, advocating that those who file fake rape reports needed to be “severely punished”, Yadav said “sternest of actions” should be taken in rape cases, but innocents should not be framed.
“What have I said wrong? Whosoever lodges fake report should be punished. Today, there is a debate going on in the country on my remarks and it is good as results would come out of such debates in democracy...people have started talking in my favour on this issue," he said.
His son, UP chief minster Akhilesh Yadav, on the other hand, sought to do some damage control by saying rapists should be given the harshest punishment. Feigning ignorance of Mulayam's remarks, he said, "Our leader and party advocate the harshest action against rapists."
The NCW, meanwhile, also sent a letter to the Election Commission of India to take cognisance of the matter and to take action to curb such incidents in the future.
Observing that Yadav's remarks were highly irresponsible, NCW chairman Mamta Sharma said: "We have issued a notice to Mulayam Singh Yadav over his remarks on rape. It was highly irresponsible statement coming from a public fighure like him and he should publicly apologise to all the women of the country."
Women's rights activists on Friday strongly condemned the comments made by Yadav and Azmi. "The Samajwadi Party is emerging as a party which is totally against women and their uplift. It is shameful that they are justifying rape. I don't expect Mulayam Singh Yadav to say something motivating or good for women," activist Ranjana Kumari said.
"Abu Azmi's comment was also highly derogatory. Actually they don't understand young people's lifestyle. People should boycott them and the National Commission for Women should take up the issue and file an FIR against Azmi for making such ridiculous comments," she added.
All India Women's Congress (AIWC) president Shobha Oza said it was unfortunate that politicians talk in such an "insensitive" manner on issues related to women.
"It is very unfortunate that they talk in such an insensitive manner on grave issues like rape. One should abstain from handling issues like heinous crimes like rape in such a manner," Oza said.
Abu Azmi faced flak for his comments from even his daughter-in-law, Ayesha Takia, who is an actress. Takia who is married to Azmi's son Farhan tweeted that she and her husband were "deeply embarrassed" and "ashamed" by his remarks. She tweeted that she and her husband did not share Abu Azmi's mindset