RESPECT MP George Galloway has come under fire from his party leader over his claim that a rape allegation against Wikileaks campaigner Julian Assange amounted to no more than “bad sexual etiquette”.
Salma Yaqoob described Mr Galloway’s defence of non-consensual sex as “deeply disappointing and wrong”, amid growing criticism of the firebrand MP for Bradford’s podcast defending Assange, who is wanted in Sweden on rape allegations.
Referring to one of the allegations, the MP said: “Claims that she woke up to him having sex with her again. This is something which can happen, you know. I mean, not everybody needs to be asked prior to each insertion.
“Some people believe that when you go to bed with somebody, take off your clothes, and have sex with them and then fall asleep, you’re already in the sex game with them.”
His comments sparked a storm of criticism, and yesterday Respect leader Ms Yaqoob joined the condemnation.
She said: “Let me be clear, as a politician and as a woman. Rape occurs when a woman has not consented to sex. George Galloway’s comments on what constitutes rape are deeply disappointing and wrong.
“There are many political issues entwined in the case of Julian Assange. These issues cannot be used to diminish in any way the seriousness of any allegations against him.”
She added: “It has taken the debate around violence against women a step backwards.”
The UK government wants to extradite Assange to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning over sex assault claims, which he denies.
The Wikileaks founder has been staying at Ecuador’s London embassy since June.
Mr Galloway yesterday attempted to clarify his comments, but did not apologise.
He said he did not believe the authorities in Britain would have sanctioned a prosecution, and that the allegations against Assange had “all the hallmarks of a set-up”.
“No never means yes and non-consensual sex is rape,” Mr Galloway said. “There’s no doubt about it and that has always been my position.
“But if my remarks on the podcast need clarification, I am happy to do that.
“Julian Assange, let’s be clear, has always denied the allegations. And this has all the hallmarks of a set-up. I don’t believe, from what we know, that the director of public prosecutions would sanction a prosecution in Britain.
“What occurred is not rape as most people understand it. And it’s important to note that the two women involved did not initially claim it.”
Ms Yaqoob, who posted a link to her response to Mr Galloway’s comments on Twitter, immediately received replies urging her to discipline or sack him.
They included one retweeted by influential group, Mumsnet.
Another, by @official_patnee, said: “@SalmaYaqoob Glad that you’ve criticised George Galloway but, as Respect leader, will you be taking any action given the seriousness?”
Kate Hudson, the party’s candidate in Manchester Central, said: “Our Respect party leader Salma Yaqoob says Galloway’s comments ‘deeply disappointing and wrong’. I am with you Salma.”
John Carnochan, of the Violence Reduction Unit, tweeted: “I think Mr Galloway has had enough free publicity, he is wrong and sexual abuse of women is wrong end of story.”
Sandy Brindley, of Rape Crisis Scotland, said: “I found his comments incredibly unhelpful, but also, we would expect him to have a grasp of the law but he is factually inaccurate. Rape is sex without consent.
“It’s really disappointing to see a public figure make comments like this, and very irresponsible.
“We still need to do much, much more about educating the public.”
Mr Galloway, who is in Indonesia, said Assange had made clear that he was prepared to return to Sweden to face questioning, if he received guarantees that he would not be extradited to the United States to face charges over the leak of US diplomatic cables.