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Female politician says victims' behavior plays role in India gang-rape attacks

Dibyangshu Sarkar / AFP - Getty Images, file

Activists hold posters during a rally as they protest against the gang rape and murder of a teenager earlier this month.

A female Indian politician and member of the "women's commission" sparked fury by saying that gang-rape victims may have invited attacks with their clothes and behavior.

"Rapes take place also because of a woman's clothes, her behavior and her presence at inappropriate places," Asha Mirje, who is a member of the state women's commission, said at a Tuesday meeting, local media reported.

She also questioned whether a 23-year-old physiotherapy student, who died after being gang-raped on a bus in the capital New Delhi, really needed to go out to a movie at 11 p.m.

Thousands of people took to the streets in nationwide protests against rape and sexual assault after the attack, for which four men were sentenced to death last year. 

Mirje, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader in western Maharashtra state, also commented on the case of photojournalist who was gang-raped in Mumbai last year, asking, "Why did the victim go to such an isolated spot at 6 p.m.?"

Women, she explained, must be "careful" and must consider whether they are leaving themselves open to assault. 

Her comments prompted fury from both politicians and activists, who called for her resignation or removal from her post on the women’s commission.   

"Every time such a statement is made by a public figure it justifies rape," Kavita Krishnan, secretary of lobby group All India Progressive Women's Association, told Reuters. "It's unconscionable that people in public posts make such remarks."  

Rupa Kulkarni, leader of domestic workers in the state, told the Hindustan Times that Mirje had "no moral right to continue on the post as she is biased against women."

NCP spokesman Nawab Malik said Mirje had apologized for her comments, which did not represent the views of the party.

"As far as the party is concerned she has said sorry and the issued is closed," he said.   

Assaults have tarnished the reputation of the world's largest democracy, where police said last week that village elders ordered the gang rape of a 20-year-old woman after they found out she was in a relationship with a man from a different community. 

A Danish tourist also told police she was gang-raped, beaten and robbed after getting lost in the heart of New Delhi earlier this month. 

Reuters contributed to this report.