NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi yesterday urged lawmakers to stop fighting over rape and work together to protect women, in his first comments on the issue since the horrific gang-rape and lynching of two girls.
Modi warned lawmakers against “politicising rape”, saying they were “playing with the dignity of women” in his first speech to parliament since sweeping to power in last month’s elections.
Modi singled out the rape and murder last month of the two girls, aged 12 and 14, in Uttar Pradesh, where a political row has erupted as anger mounts over the state government’s handling of the attacks.
Modi said lawmakers must work to end attacks, which women’s groups claim have reached “epidemic” levels despite mass protests over the fatal gang-rape of a student in Delhi in December 2012. “Governments will have to work strictly against this, else our own souls will not forgive us,” Modi told parliament as lawmakers thumped their desks in agreement.
“That’s why I appeal to all state ministers, all ministers please stop politicising rape.”
“Does it suit us to make comments on such incidents, can we not be quiet?
“We are playing with the dignity of women.”
“Respect for women, their security — it should be the priority for all 1.2 billion people.”
The appeal comes after a string of politicians including from his own Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) made controversial comments over the attacks on the girls which further inflamed public anger.
A minister from central Chhattisgarh state said at the weekend that “these kind of incidents happen accidentally.”
Last week, a minister from Madhya Pradesh state said rapes were “sometimes right, sometimes wrong.”
The girls were found hanging from a mango tree in their impoverished village with tests showing they had been raped multiple times.
Their families claimed police initially failed to take action because they were from a low caste.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, under fire over his handling of the case, accused the families on the weekend of coming under the influence of a rival political party, a claim they have denied. AFP