An Indian politician has apologised after she was criticised for saying rape victims invite attacks with their clothes and behaviour.
Asha Mirje, National Congress Party (NCP) leader in the western Maharashtra state, said at a meeting on Tuesday that a rape victim who died of her injuries could have avoided being attacked by not going out at night.
Her comments have received scorn from campaigners and members of her party.
She has since apologised in an interview with CNN IBN on Wednesday, and said: “What I said was my personal opinion. If I have hurt someone, I apologise.”
She added: “The complete comment was not taken. Only a part of it was projected. I was not blaming the women for rape. I had said that since we are in transit period, we have to be extra cautious,” Mirje said.
Ms Mirje, who is also a member of the state women’s commission, asked members of the meeting on Tuesday: “Did Nirbhaya really have go to watch a movie at 11 in the night with her friend?”
She used the Hindi term “Nirbhaya,” meaning "fearless," that has been widely adopted by the Indian media as a name for the unnamed victim.
The 23-year-old physiotherapy student she was referring to was gang-raped on a bus in Delhi in 2012.
The incident sparked nationwide protests in the streets against the prevalence of rape and sexual assault in the country. Sexual violence has come to the forefront of social and political discussions in India.
During the meeting, she also commented on a photojounalist who was gang raped during an assignment at a disused mill in Mumbai last year, asking why the victim had visited an isolated place.
”Rapes take place also because of a woman's clothes, her behaviour and her presence at inappropriate places,“ she said.
Women must be ”careful“, and think if they are inviting assault, Ms Mirje added.
Her comments also come after a 20-year-old woman was gang-raped in a rural area of West Bengal in eastern India on the orders of a village court earlier in January.
Among Ms Mirje critics was Kavita Krishnan, Secretary of the All India Progressive Women's Association lobby group, who said: "Every time such a statement is made by a public figure it justifies rape."
“It's unconscionable that people in public posts make such remarks," adding, "Mirje is reflecting what is a much larger problem. There are many others who hold such views."
Members of her party, which belongs to the Congress-led national coalition government, have also distanced themselves from her remarks.
NCP MP Supriya Sule told reporters she was sorry Mirje had made the comments and that they reflected her personal views, not those of the party.
“She did make a mistake yesterday. She should not have said it,” Ms Sule said.
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