By Bob Duncan
Respect MP George Galloway has been forced to ‘clarify’ comments he made in which he appeared to suggest that having sex with a woman who was asleep did not constitute rape if consensual sex had already taken place.
The controversial MP made the comments in a podcast yesterday in which he claimed allegations made against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange were not rape.
Mr Galloway caused a storm of protest when he claimed that the allegations against Mr Assange, even if they were “100 per cent true, and even if a camera in the room captured them”, did not “constitute rape”. At least “not rape as anyone with any sense can possibly recognise it”.
Galloway said “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.” he went on to describe Mr Assange’s alledged behaviour as merely “bad sexual etiquette” and “really bad manners.”
The remarks led to criticism from a number of quarters, including his own Respect Party leader Salma Yaqoob, who described his views as “deeply disappointing”.
“Let me be clear, as a politician and as a woman, rape occurs when a woman has not consented to sex,” she said in a statement on her website. “George Galloway’s comments on what constitutes rape are deeply disappointing and wrong”.
Jo Swinson, the Lib Dem MP who is an aide to deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, said it was “grossly irresponsible” to suggest that “sex without consent is anything other than rape,” adding “Mr Galloway should apologise and retract his comments immediately”.
Labour’s Bridget Phillipson said Galloway’s comments were “dreadful” while Conservative Louise Mensch said it was “so ironic” that he represented a party called Respect.
The charity, Rape Crisis, said the law was clear that if the woman was asleep when a sexual encounter began, consent cannot “reasonably” have been given and having had sex before did not give a man the right to have sex again at any time and simply assume consent.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, Galloway said the he would be “happy to clarify” his remarks. “No never means yes and non-consensual sex is rape. There’s no doubt about it and that has always been my position,” he said.
However, he insisted the Assange case had “all the hallmarks of a set-up”.
He added: “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.”
Meanwhile, in the USA, Congressman Todd Akin is himself facing calls to stand down after he claimed that, according to doctors, women who are raped “very rarely become pregnant.” He said this was because women’s bodies possess a mechanism to prevent incidents of “legitimate rape” from leading to pregnancy.
As a consequence of his remarks, Akin has come under intense pressure over the past 24 hours from top Republican leaders, including presidential nominee Mitt Romney, to give up his bid for the Senate. The six-term congressman has been advised to spend time considering what’s best for himself, his family, his party, and the country, which is political code for urging him to quit the race.
But Akin, in two radio interviews Monday, declared that he is staying in the race. He was scheduled to appear on CNN’s ‘Piers Morgan Tonight,’ on Monday but cancelled at the last minute. This led the producers to replace him on camera with an empty chair, sparking a flurry of negative comments on Twitter.
Akin has now recorded a television advert in which he asks for “forgiveness.” In the ad, Akin looks directly into the camera, saying: “Rape is an evil act. I used the wrong words in the wrong way and for that I apologise. As the father of two daughters I want tough justice for predators. I have a compassionate heart for the victims of sexual assault and I pray for them.
“The fact is rape can lead to pregnancy. The truth is rape has many victims. The mistake I made was in the words I said, not in the heart I hold. I ask for your forgiveness.”
Akin is a staunch conservative Christian who opposes abortion. By staying in the race, Akin’s candidacy ensures the abortion issue will be a focal point of next week’s Republican National Convention.
Mitt Romney’s campaign team quickly distanced the candidate from Akin and declared that Romney didn’t oppose abortion in cases of rape. Romney said on Monday that the comments by Akin were “insulting, inexcusable and, frankly, wrong.”
However, the party platform being drafted ahead of next week’s convention includes an endorsement of a “human life amendment” to the Constitution that would outlaw abortion with no explicit exemption for rape or incest.
Akin has complained that his detractors overreacted to a liberal media campaign to take him down. He said his fellow Republicans “ran for cover at the first sound of gunfire.”