Two politicians in India’s largest, most influential state sparked outrage by suggesting men who commit rape should be forgiven because “boys will be boys,” but women who have sex outside of marriage, even if raped, should be hanged.
Mulayam Singh Yadav, the head of the socialist Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh, which has a population of over 200 million people, said it’s not uncommon “for boys to make mistakes.”
"Boys will be boys. Following a girl-boy fight, the girl complains she was raped," he told a crowd in Moradabad.
Yadav, 74, was referring to a Mumbai case in which three men were sentenced to death for participating in two gang rapes.
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"Many people said that my comments were right,” Yadav defended his comments on Friday at another rally. “I am against rape. Rapist should be given the most severe punishment. Innocent people should not be hanged. Rape is being debated in half the world. If I said this, what was wrong?"
Another senior leader in the UP Socialist party, Abu Azmi, defended Yadav’s comments, adding that women who are raped should be hanged along with the rapist.
"Rape is punishable by hanging in Islam,” Azmi told NDTV News when he was asked about Yadav’s comments. “But here, nothing happens to women, only to men. Even the woman is guilty."
Uttah Pradesh is largely impoverished and draws much of its support from Muslims.
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"Any woman if, whether married or unmarried, goes along with a man, with or without her consent, should be hanged,” Azmi continued. “Both should be hanged. It shouldn't be allowed even if a woman goes by consent."
Azmi’s son, Farhan Azmi, who is running for a local seat in Mumbai, denounced his father’s comments.
"I believe a rapist should be hanged a hundred times," Farhan Azmi said. "I have five sisters and everyone in my family believes the same."
The general election in India has already begun and will continue until May 16.