A senior Indian policeman reignited an angry debate about attitudes toward women in the world’s largest democracy by comparing the legislation of betting on sports to enjoying sexual assault.
Ranjit Sinha, the head of India’s leading crime fighting agency, said yesterday that sports betting should be legalized because “if you can’t prevent rape, enjoy it.” Speaking at a conference on corruption, he made the comments to illustrate that it was difficult to prevent a ban on gambling and it is better to earn some revenue from it.
His remarks came amid a bout of national soul-searching caused by the gang rape and murder of a student in New Delhi in December that triggered weeks of protests. In the aftermath of the attack, India’s police were criticized for failing to register cases of rape, being insensitive to victims and being sexist with a shortage of female officers.
“He has made an insensitive comment,” Mamata Sharma, chairman of the National Commission for Women, said in an interview with CNN-IBN news channel. “If the head is talking like this, then he should resign.”
Nirmala Sitharaman, a spokeswoman for the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, said Sinha’s comments were “shocking” and questioned what his colleagues and family would make of them. Kiran Bedi, India’s first ranking female police officer, sought a public apology for the “irresponsible remarks.”
“This is not expected from such positions,” Bedi said on her Twitter page.
Sinha later clarified his remarks and issued an apology. “I regret any hurt caused,” he said in an e-mailed statement. “I reiterate my deep sense of regard and respect for women and my commitment to gender issues.”
Sinha heads the Central Bureau of Investigation, India’s federal crime fighting body that probes terrorism, organized crime and corruption. The agency has been responsible for investigating political graft including the alleged illegal sale of mobile phone licenses and coal mine allocations that dented the reputation of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government.
After the brutal December gang rape in New Delhi, women’s safety issues were brought back in focus after a young photographer working as an intern in Mumbai was sexually assaulted by five men while on an assignment.
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