Bangladesh minister quits after sexist tirade, rape threat

An influential Bangladeshi politician resigned Tuesday after a sexist tirade against the granddaughter of the country’s ailing opposition leader and claims he threatened a prominent actress with rape.

State minister of information Murad Hassan launched into a diatribe against Khaleda Zia, a former prime minister later jailed by her archrival and current premier Sheikh Hasina, during a talk show appearance broadcast on a pro-government Facebook page last week.

He then turned his attention to Zia’s granddaughter, who lives in exile in London, telling his audience that the 26-year-old “can’t sleep at night without sleeping with black men”.

Footage of the broadcast garnered more than five million views in three days and was widely condemned, with a student group burning his effigy at the elite Dhaka University.

Protests intensified after the online publication of a phone conversation purporting to contain a recording of the minister threatening to drag popular film actress Mahia Mahi into a five-star hotel and rape her.

Mahi said the recording was authentic in a video published to her Facebook page.

“I was very embarrassed that day… And today I’m embarrassed again. It has belittled me in front of my countrymen,” she said.

Hassan announced his resignation in a letter on Tuesday “citing personal causes”, information ministry spokesman Mohammad Gias Uddin told AFP by phone.

The ruling Awami League’s deputy leader Obaidul Quader said Tuesday that Prime Minister Hasina had personally demanded Hassan’s resignation.

The opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party earlier demanded Hassan’s prosecution for his comments against its leader’s granddaughter. 

“We wonder how a public representative as well as cabinet member can make comments like a women-hater and racist,” Tamanna Khan Popy, who heads feminist group Naripokkho, said in a statement.

AFP was unable to contact Hassan for comment.

Hassan stood by his comments at first, but later expressed regrets.

“Forgive me if I have done anything wrong or if my words have hurt my mothers and sisters,” he wrote on his Facebook page on Tuesday.