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Female Indian politician apologises over insensitive rape remark

A female Indian politician has apologised for saying that rape victims may have invited attacks by their clothes and behaviour.

NEW DELHI: A female Indian politician has apologised for saying that rape victims may have invited attacks by their clothes and behaviour.

Many people were outraged by the comments made by Asha Mirje, who is a member of the women’s commission in the western Maharashtra state.

But according to her, she was only giving motherly advice, which came while India was still in shock over a gang rape ordered by village elders, and after several high-profile men embarrassed themselves by putting the blame for sexual assault on rape victims themselves.

Asha Mirje, a member of the government panel for women, stirred controversy with her statement on the 2012 Delhi gang rape case.

She said: "In Nirbhaya's case, why was there a need to watch a movie at 11pm?"

The 23-year-old physiotherapy student was brutally gang-raped on a moving bus and later died of her injuries.

“And the rape took place at Shakti mills compound -- why did she go to such a deserted place so late in the evening?” she said, referring to another high-profile gang rape that took place in August on a female photographer who was out on an early evening assignment in an isolated corner of Mumbai with a male colleague.

Mirje added that "inviting messages" could be sent out "unintentionally" through clothes and body language.

Nirbhaya’s case thrust the spotlight on sexual violence against women in India -- a country where one rape is reported every 22 minutes.

Mirje's comment came under fire -- especially since she is a women's activist and leader of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).

Abha Singh, a women's activist, said: "I would like to ask Asha Mirje… about the rapes which have happened to three-year-olds, five-year-olds and small girls who are not even wearing any clothes like these.

“Secondly, if she says that the Shakti Mill's girl should not have gone there, this is also very shocking because she is trying to cover up the inefficiency of the police because Asha Mirje is a member of the NCP and here in Maharashtra, it is the NCP which has the home portfolio."

Brinda Karat, a leader of the Communist Party of India, said: "As a person, she can hold any view that she wants… but certainly not as a member of the state women’s commission. The state women’s commission is there to speak the truth about women's rights, to defend the women's rights."

At a time when India is reeling from a spate of high-profile rape cases forcing authorities to bring culprits to the book, Mirje's comments have resulted in outrage on the streets.

The protest was able to pressure Asha Mirje to apologise for her remarks and clarify her stand that she was only giving “motherly advice” to the girls.

But the whole episode has raised concerns whether authorities need to be more sensitive towards rape victims and if mindsets need to change -- as some feminist thinkers argue that no one questions what the rapist was wearing.  

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