"These days the situation is such that one is scared of talking to girls. We feel that a lady should not be hired as a secretary. God forbidding, if there is some complaint we may land in jail," the National Conference leader told reporters outside Parliament House.
The New and Renewable Energy Minister was responding to queries about sexual assault cases involving important dignitaries.
Asked whether he was blaming the fair sex, he said, "No, no, I am not blaming the girl. I am blaming society itself. The society has reached a stage where complaints are coming from the other side. Rapes should not take place. The number of girls has gone down. When a child is born we pray for a son. When a girl is born we cry," Abdullah said.
The comment came in for criticism and even his son Omar Abdullah, Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, said he should apologise.
The Union Minister then sought to wriggle out of controversy, saying "people are misunderstanding things and they are misquoting things in many ways.I feel terribly sorry that people are misunderstanding things and they are misquoting things in many ways. There is no question of anything to derogate. I feel time has come there must have justice and there must have 33 per cent reservation in the Parliament as quickly as possible," he said.
"If something goes wrong, I am sorry for that. I never meant it in the manner that people have taken it," he added.
Abdullah draws flak from women leaders
Cutting across party lines, women leaders today criticized Union Minister Farooq Abdullah for his controversial statement that hiring female personal secretaries can land one in jail if there is any complaint of sexual harassment.
"In our constitution, both the genders have equal rights but so far, women have been living in fear. If someone thinks so, that mindset should be changed," Women and Child Development Minister Krishna Tirath told reporters outside Parliament.
BJP leader Smriti Irani expressed surprise over Abdullah's remarks and said it was "inappropriate" for a senior Minister to make a statement that indicates that "women can be hired and called upon favorably and they can be demeaned at workplace." Irani said people should understand that it is a very sensitive issue and should not give an indication "that if a women speaks about her rights at work place, that is a sign of danger."
CPI(M) leader Brinda Karat said it was "irresponsible for such a senior Minister to say such a thing when the country is shocked that men in higher office use their offices to make unwelcome sexual advances." Karat said a statement like this implies that women should not make complaints against sexual harassment and if she does, she will be unemployable.