Karnataka Cong leader causes a furore for his 'enjoy rape' comment in Assembly

MLA K R Ramesh Kumar
Karnataka Congress MLA K R Ramesh Kumar. File photo: PTI

Bengaluru/New Delhi: Karnataka Congress MLA K R Ramesh Kumar's "enjoy rape if it is inevitable" remarks caused a furore on Friday, with the BJP, the National Commission for Women (NCW) and some women Congress MLAs taking umbrage to the statement made on the floor of the Assembly, even as the former Speaker apologised for the comment.

The BJP in New Delhi targeted top Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra over their party colleague's controversial remarks, questioning their silence on the matter.

During an Assembly debate on floods and related damages in the Karnataka Assembly on Thursday, many MLAs wanted to highlight the plight of people in their constituencies and Speaker Vishweshwar Hegde Kageri, laughing, had said he had to say "yes, yes" for everyone, give up controlling the situation and take the proceedings in a systematic manner and that he should tell everyone to continue their talk. He explained that his only grievance is that the business of the House was not happening.

Kumar had then intervened and said, "see, there is a saying- when rape is inevitable, lie down and enjoy it. That's exactly the position in which you are," remarks that prompted widespread criticism against him.

On Friday, Kumar told the House he made a statement on the floor of the Assembly on December 16, which people found outrageous.

"However, my intention was never to demean the prestige of this House or behave in an inferior way. I will not defend myself. I tender my sincere apology for my utterance during the proceedings of the House if it has hurt people from any part of the country," he said.

He also apologised to the Speaker for his statement, which made him laugh and thereby attracted him criticism.

The Speaker accepted Kumar's apology and appealed to the members, especially women MLAs, not to drag the matter further and make it (a) big (issue) and proceeded with the Question Hour though some women legislators wanted to raise the matter.

The former minister came under fire from various quarters including the MLAs from his own party for his statement.

The Congress' Khanapur MLA Anjali Nimbalkar took a strong view of it and tweeted saying "the House shall apologise to entire womanhood, every mother, sister & daughter of this nation for such an obnoxious & shameless behaviour."

Another Congress MLA Sowmya Reddy too denounced the statement in her tweet, saying "this is just NOT ok. There needs to be an apology."

NCW Chairperson Rekha Sharma flayed Kumar and said in a tweet that "it is extremely sad and unfortunate that we still have public representatives who are misogynists and have horrible mindset towards women."

"It's really disgusting. If they sit in assemblies and speak like this how they must be behaving with women in their lives," she said.

BJP spokespersons in New Delhi targeted the Congress' top leadership over the issue while Union Minister Smriti Irani raised the matter in the Lok Sabha.

The BJP was, however, also left embarrassed when its spokesperson Aparajita Sarangi also criticised the Karnataka Assembly Speaker, who is from the ruling party, for not objecting to Congress Kumar's rape remarks.

"What is sad is that the Speaker said nothing after such objectionable comments were made and even laughed," she said.

Union Minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar and another BJP spokesperson Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, however, defended the Speaker. Rathore said Kageri made no statement, and things should not be implied. Chandrasekhar accused Kumar of trivialising crime against women.

Sarangi, who was also at the dais with them for a party press conference, later clarified that she meant to refer to Kumar as he is a former speaker. Even as Speaker he had made such remarks by equating himself with a rape victim for being dragged to court over various issues, she noted.

She said Congress leaders have a history of making humiliating and shameful comments about women and referred to remarks made by the likes of former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Digvijay Singh.

Noting that the Gandhi siblings had rushed to Hathras (UP), where a Dalit girl was allegedly raped and murdered, Sarangi questioned their silence over their colleague's utterances.

Meanwhile, Irani, the Union Women and Child Development Minister said the Karnataka Congress leader's remarks should be condemned and demanded that the political party concerned (Congress) should first bring the person to justice.

Her remarks in the Lok Sabha came amid Opposition protests during the Question Hour. Opposition members, including from the Congress, have been protesting demanding the removal of Union minister Ajay Mishra in connection with the Lakhimpur Kheri violence that happened in Uttar Pradesh in October.

When Irani was responding to supplementaries, some protesting members sought to block her view by standing in front of her seat and displaying placards.

Amid the ruckus, she said she was being blocked by certain gentlemen who have placards on their hands and that if they truly believe in serving the needs of poor women and children in the country, then she should be allowed to speak.

Without mentioning the party's name, but in an obvious reference to the Congress, Irani said those gentlemen who belong especially to a particular party, one of their representatives on Thursday made remarks about women which need to be condemned by every public representative in Karnataka.

"If you truly believe in the cause of women, first stand here and denounce that legislator who said that if you are raped, as a woman in the country you should enjoy it. Those men who stand in this Well today, go back to your political organisation and first bring to justice such a man, then we will see who speaks for women and children in this country," the minister said.

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