Even as Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh made references to rape being ‘mistakes made by boys’ and asserted that they must not be punished in the usual ‘boys will be boys’, argument, the state party president and MLA Abu Azmi went a step further.

He actually said that women who had consensual sex with men should be hanged, and that women too are to be blamed for rape. This paper carried a front page report about Azmi’s comments, after which television channels besieged Azmi all day, even prompting him to walk out in anger during a television interview, cutting it short.

Perhaps the time has come not to be shocked by our leaders making these asinine comments. Earlier too, we have had figures at various levels of authority issuing diktats and regressive statements about women. There were other politicians who said women should not use cell phones and should refrain from stepping out of the house after 8 pm.

India’s image as a nation has taken a huge battering, with the brutal Delhi gangrape being followed by the two gang rapes in Shakti Mills.

But what is even more important that our international reputation, is the impact these regressive statements have on the day to day lives of women in the country women who have become brave enough to file charges against molestation, rape and domestic violence, and stand up for themselves.

Such statements don’t just give us an unsettling insight into the sexism deeply rooted in our society and its institutions, but are a huge deterrent to the basic wellbeing and safety of women in the country. Women’s bodies including the National Women’s Commission must condemn this in the strongest possible terms. Politicians across the board have to slam it.

Whether leaders then retract statements or say they have been misquoted, it’s obvious that they speak in this way only because they think in this way. One cannot imagine a more dangerous future than one in which people with this mindset sit in the chair.