An Indian politician has apologised for making an “obnoxious” remark about rape.
KR Ramesh Kumar, a lawmaker in Karnataka, told the southern state’s assembly that sexual assault victims should “enjoy” rape when it was “inevitable”.
“There is a saying: when rape is inevitable, lie down and enjoy it,” Mr Kumar told his fellow politicians, several of who laughed. He was responding to speaker Vishweshwar Hegde Kageri, after he complained he was running out of time to complete assembly business.
Mr Kageri was one of those who laughed at the remarks.
The comment though was immediately denounced elsewhere, including by members of his own Congress party.
#WATCH| "...There's a saying: When rape is inevitable, lie down&enjoy," ex Karnataka Assembly Speaker & Congress MLA Ramesh Kumar said when Speaker Kageri, in response to MLAs request for extending question hour, said he couldn't& legislators should 'enjoy the situation' (16.12) pic.twitter.com/hD1kRlUk0T
— ANI (@ANI) December 17, 2021
“Congress party disapproves of the exchange of highly objectionable and insensitive banter between Karnataka Assembly Speaker and senior Congress MLA in the House,” said spokesperson Randeep Surjewala.
“Speaker as custodian and [senior] legislators are expected to be role models and should desist from such unacceptable behaviour,” he added in a tweet.
Female members of the assembly were also outraged.
“The House shall apologise to entire womanhood, every mother, sister & daughter of this nation for such an obnoxious & shameless behaviour (sic),” tweeted Karnataka Congress lawmaker Anjali Nimbalkar.
Sowmya Reddy, another party MLA from the state, denounced the remarks, saying it was “just NOT ok” and insisted he apologise.
Lawmaker and actor Jaya Bachchan also slammed Mr Kumar’s remarks: “What can I say? I am ashamed to even think that people of such a mindset can be in the Assembly or Parliament.
“I don’t know what action will be taken. His party should take strong action. I am speechless. Does he not have women at home? This is the result of a basic flaw in thinking,” she added.
The apology duly came on Friday with Mr Kumar saying: “I would like to express my sincere apologies to everyone for the indifferent and negligent comment I made in today’s assembly about ‘Rape!’(sic),” he tweeted.
“My intention was not [to] trivialise or make light of the heinous crime, but an off the cuff remark! I will choose my words carefully henceforth!” he added.
Congress Party disapproves the exchange of highly objectionable & insensitive banter between Karnataka Assembly Speaker & Sr. Congress MLA in the House.
Speaker as custodian & Sr legislators are expected to be role models & should desist from such unacceptable behaviour.
— Randeep Singh Surjewala (@rssurjewala) December 17, 2021
The speaker said Mr Kumar’s remarks should signal the end of this matter. “He has apologised, let’s not drag it further,” Mr Kageri was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.
Karnataka’s state assembly had less than 10 women lawmakers out of a total 225 seats.
Several Indian states have failed to strike gender diversity and balance in their respective assemblies and Karnataka has been in an unenviable situation in this regard.
Women have not formed even 10 per cent of the total strength of any of the elected assembly members since 1963, according to a 2018 report by news portal The News Minute.
Mr Kumar, previously made a distasteful remark on sexual assault in the assembly in 2019, when he compared an investigation into the behaviour of two politicians to rape.