Respect MP George Galloway sparked protests by suggesting WikiLeaks campaigners Julian Assange has been accused of no more than bad “sexual etiquette”.
Mr Galloway, speaking in a 30 minute video blog last night, said the allegations levelled against Mr Assange, which resulted in a European Arrest Warrant and long legal proceedings as he sought to block extradition to Sweden to face the claims, could not be considered as rape.
Mr Assange is holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London after claiming political asylum to avoid extradition to Sweden to face questioning on sexual assault allegations.
He fears he would be extradited from Sweden to the US to face charges over WikiLeaks.
Mr Galloway was condemned for his comments by women’s rights groups, who said he was misrepresenting the law on rape and could prevent women coming forward.
In his video, shot in black and white and called Good Night with George Galloway, the MP said: “Even taken at its worst, if the allegations made by these two women were true, 100% true, and even if a camera in the room captured them, they don’t constitute rape. At least not rape as anyone with any sense can possibly recognise it. And somebody has to say this.
“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.
“It might be really bad manners not to have tapped her on the shoulder and said, ’do you mind if I do it again?’. It might be really sordid and bad sexual etiquette, but whatever else it is, it is not rape or you bankrupt the term rape of all meaning.”
A spokeswoman for Rape Crisis told the BBC Mr Galloway was factually incorrect.
She said: “Having had consensual sex with a woman once does not give a man licence to then have sex with her again at any time and in any way he pleases and assume consent is given.
“By the same token, having had consensual sex with someone once does not mean a woman has forever forfeited her right to withdraw or refuse her consent to further sex with that person.
“Sex without consent is rape. Mr Galloway’s description of such sexual violence as ’really bad manners’ is offensive and deeply concerning.”
A spokeswoman for the End Violence Against Women Coalition said: “The Assange case has revealed some very worrying attitudes to rape and sexual violence among many commentators as to what constitutes ’real rape’.
“Research shows the majority of victims never report to the police. The head of the CPS said in January that media reporting and commentary on sexual violence is contributing to low reporting rates – women and girls hear what is insinuated about rape and do not report.
“What is urgently needed is a public campaign to challenge attitudes to sexual violence.”
A supporter of Mr Assange last night sparked anger by appearing to name one of the alleged victims on BBC 2’s Newsnight.
Craig Murray said: “I think incidents which are dubious themselves as to what has happened, and Julian Assange has denied the accusations against him, are being seized on as a political agenda.
“It’s well worth people going online to discover what they can about the allegations, about how they were made, who made them, what the people who made them did afterwards, and look at what happened.
“Let us look at the conduct of these women. I’m going to say some things I know to be true.”
Mr Murray named an alleged victim, claiming the name was in general circulation, but was challenged by host Gavin Esler.