INDIA’S top investigator Ranjit Sinha is facing demands for his resignation after he said on a panel discussion about sports ethics that “if you can’t prevent rape, you enjoy it”, in a doomed attempt to make an analogy.
The director of the Central Bureau of Investigation, which tackles corruption and other high-profile cases has since apologised for the remark, but still faces calls for him to step down.
India saw nationwide protests late last year on the treatment of women and the failure of police to act on reports of rape after a student gang-raped on a New Delhi bus died of her injuries in a Singapore hospital.
“Do we have the enforcement?” Mr Sinha said at a CBI conference in the Indian capital on Tuesday about whether sports betting should be legalised. “It is very easy to say that if you can’t enforce it, it’s like saying if you can’t prevent rape, you enjoy it.”
Mr Sinha sought to explain his comments, which civil rights campaigners and opposition politicians said risked trivialising rape and raised questions over his agency’s ability to investigate serious sexual assault cases. “I regret any hurt caused,” Mr Sinha said in a statement after the original remarks dominated news channels. “I gave my opinion that betting should be legalised and that if the laws cannot be enforced, that does not mean that laws should not be made.
“This is as erroneous as saying that if rape is inevitable one should lie back and enjoy it. I reiterate my deep sense of regard and respect for women and my commitment for gender issues.”
Mr Sinha told the Hindustan Times that he was “using a proverb” to “make a point” about “how difficult it was to enforce a ban on betting”.
“[The reaction to the remark is] malicious propaganda, it’s hitting below the belt, and it’s unfair,” he told the newspaper.
Kavita Krishnan, an activist with the All India Progressive Women’s Association, called for Mr Sinha to step down. “How can he remain the head of India’s premier investigation agency?” she asked.
Nirmala Sitharaman, spokeswoman for the main opposition group, the Bharatiya Janata Party, called Mr Sinha’s remarks “shocking”. “Wonder if his colleagues in the Bureau, his family and well-wishers approve of his view,” she tweeted.
Communist Party of India leader Brinda Karat said Mr Sinha’s comments were offensive to women everywhere.
“It is sickening that a man who is in charge of several rape investigations should use such an analogy,” Ms Karat told reporters. “He should be prosecuted for degrading and insulting women.”
There were more than 24,000 reported rapes in India in 2011, but activists say the real number is many times higher.
Following a public outcry over the New Delhi attack, India introduced tougher rape laws in March, which include the death penalty for repeat offenders and for those whose victims are left in a “vegetative state”.
The row comes at a bad time for the CBI, widely accused of acting as a tool for the government to pressure political rivals. Its very legality is also being challenged in court.
The CBI, which is similar to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the United States, was set up to fight corruption by government employees, but also investigates other important cases, including murder, rape and terrorism.