A day after Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav suggested at an election rally that rape happens because women lead men on, and “boys will be boys”, his party’s Maharashtra unit chief Abu Azmi said women who have sex outside marriage should be punished with death.
Facing a firestorm of outrage across the country, both Mulayam and Azmi — whose comments first appeared in a city tabloid on Friday — remained unyielding.
Mid-Day quoted Azmi as saying that all “women who go with men” should be hanged, irrespective of whether they went willingly or were forced.
“Koi bhi ladki, vivahit ho ya avivahit ho, agar kisi ladke ke saath apni marzi se, ya bagair marzi se jaati hai, toh bhi phaansi honi chahiye (If any woman, whether she is married or unmarried, goes with a man, she should be hanged, irrespective of whether she went willingly or unwillingly),” Azmi told Mid-Day in an interview.
Azmi’s remarks, coming after Mulayam’s, provoked women rights bodies to urge voters to shun the SP for its anti-women stand.
Azmi’s son Farhan Azmi, the SP candidate for the Mumbai’s North Central seat, apologised for his father’s comments. His wife, actor Ayesha Takia, tweeted that she and Farhan were ashamed and embarrassed.
Azmi did not back down. Giving a religious twist to his remark, he said, “Islam does not permit out-of-marriage sex. Regardless of whether one is a Hindu or a Muslim, I am certain that people do not want their daugthers or sisters to have pre-marital sex, or be seen to be involved in out-of-marriage sex.
“It is punishable under Islamic laws, and I feel that the same should be regarded as the rule of the land.”
Asked specifically by the Mid-Day reporter if he thought “sex with consent (outside marriage) shouldn’t be allowed”, Azmi had said: “Obviously. No parents in our Indian culture would agree if their daughter goes out with another man, and indulges in something wrong.”
Asked what punishment the couple should get, Azmi had said, “The punishment should be death by hanging.”
Susieben Shah, chairperson of the Maharashtra Commission for Women, said the commission had issued notice to Azmi to appear in person on April 25 to explain his statement.
“His statement is deplorable, irresponsible and condemnable… When you are in a position of power, you are duty-bound to protect women?” she said.
Shah added, “I call upon all women to come out in large numbers like they did in Bastar, Vidarbha and Delhi to vote for a leader who protects women’s dignity.”
Both the Congress and BJP attacked the “insensitive, shocking and shameful” comments of the two SP leaders — Azmi and Mulayam.