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Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav addressing an election rally in Moradabad on Thursday
Uttar Pradesh politician Mulayam Singh Yadav
has sparked outrage with his comments questioning the death sentence to three men who were convicted of two gang-rapes in Mumbai last week. "Should rape cases be punished with hanging? They are boys, they make mistakes," he said today while campaigning for the national election. (Watch video)
The three men have been handed the death sentence under a new law that punishes repeat offenders; they were found guilty of gang-raping two women, a photo-journalist and a telephone operator, at the abandoned Shakti Mills in Mumbai. (Shakti Mills gang-rapes: 3 convicts sentenced to death for repeat offence)
"Boys and girls ....later they had differences, and the girl went and gave a statement that I have been raped. And then the poor fellows, three of them have been sentenced to death. Should rape cases lead to hanging? Boys are boys, they make mistakes. Two or three have been given the death sentence in Mumbai. We will try and change such laws...we will also ensure punishment of those who report false cases," he said in Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh, the state his party has governed since 2012. ('Comments show his regressive mindset': reactions to Mulayam's shocker on rape)
A complaint has been filed against him with the Election Commission and the National Commission for Women. (India Votes 2014: Full coverage)
The comments come at a time rising crimes against women have triggered a nationwide debate on laws and the need to change deeply-entrenched chauvinism in large parts of India.
Mr Yadav has promised in his party's manifesto for the polls to check "the large-scale misuse" of the tougher anti-rape law introduced after the fatal gang-rape of a young woman on a moving bus in Delhi in December, 2012.
When the new laws were proposed in Parliament, Mulayam Singh's party had objected to features including stalking being made a criminal offence, arguing that they could be twisted to implicate men in fake cases.
"There is a large scale misuse of laws including anti-dowry, SC/ST (atrocities prevention) act and the new anti-rape law that came into existence after 'Nirbhaya' rape case...SP is in favour of implementing them strictly and at the same time will initiate strict action against those misusing them," the party's manifesto said.