Goa MP says rape after midnight 'not a crime'

Andrew Buncombe
Thursday 17 December 2009 01:00

An Indian politician has sparked outrage after he suggested that cases when a woman was raped after staying out past midnight should be treated differently to other sexual attacks.

Speaking before the country's parliament, Shantaram Naik, an MP from Goa from the ruling Congress Party, reportedly made a series of "contentious" comments referring to the British teenager Scarlett Keeling, who was raped and murdered in Goa last year, and a Russian woman who alleges she was recently the victim of an assault by a state politician.

"An alleged rape of a lady who moves with strangers for days together even beyond middle of the night is to be treated on different footings," said Mr Naik, as opposition MPs shouted their disapproval.

He then turned his attention to the media, accusing it of sensationalising and over-reporting such attacks. "If we go by electronic media coverage of recent times, it appears that nothing happens except incidents of rape," he added.

Mr Naik's comments were also criticised by the Russian consulate in Mumbai, which wrote to the state government saying it intended to advise Russian visitors not to stay out past 10pm if it was not safe for them to do so.

"Essentially the Russian government is concerned about the safety about its citizens," Vikram Verma, a lawyer representing the consulate, told the Times of India. "If [the state authorities] feel that Russians should not be out late in the night, we would [be] happy to give them any advisory which would improve their safety and security."

The darker side of Goa, which has long attracted visitors from around the world, has received no shortage of publicity following a series of killings and assaults on tourists – among them Devon teenager Scarlett Keeling in February 2008. An initial investigation by police concluded she had drowned but after the intervention of her mother, it was shown the 15-year-old had been murdered.

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