MPs have debated whether to ban controversial "neomasculinist" group Return of Kings in the UK, with the government describing its leader as "repulsive". Labour's shadow women and equalities minister, Kate Green MP, called for the home secretary to consider proscribing the organisation as a hate group, making it illegal for anyone to be a member.
It comes shortly after Daryush "Roosh" Valizadeh – the head of Return of Kings – announced he had cancelled the group's first ever International Meetup Day, due to take place on 6 February, because of safety fears. The 36-year-old, who describes himself as a pickup artist, faced a huge backlash from critics who denounced the group as sexist and claimed it promoted rape.
The latter was in reference to a blog post Valizadeh wrote in 2015 in which he told his followers the rape of women should be legal if it is done on private property, saying it would encourage them to take more responsibility. He has since claimed the article was satire.
Debating the issue in the House of Commons on 4 February, Green said: "There's been widespread ridicule but also revulsion at the antics of the group Return of Kings. I'm very glad they are not going ahead this weekend. We do need assurances for the future as I note Roosh V has said he could not stop men attending private meetings."
Eight cities across the UK were due to host Return of Kings events on 6 February. The group, which shares tips on how to seduce women and posts provocative articles on a range of topics, has more than 12,000 likes on Facebook. Members were due to meet face-to-face in 43 countries for the first time.
Petition after petition has since been set up to stop the meetups happening. Valizadeh, who says he has received death threats, claims he has been misunderstood and is the victim, as he puts it, of "hairy legged" feminists. He insisted his writing "doesn't promote violence, harassment or hate against any group".
The government welcomed the news his group's events would no longer go ahead and said it was "taking all steps it can" to deal with the organisation in the future.
Karen Bradley MP, Home Office minister, told the Commons: "The comments from this individual and proposals from this group are absolutely repulsive. They have no place in British society. We should ridicule and show contempt for these most ridiculous views. If we can see that these are ludicrous comments people will see that they do not want to be part of this [group]."
She added: "The government condemns in the strongest terms anyone who condones rape and sexual violence, or suggests responsibility for stopping these crimes rests with the victims. Responsibility always, unequivocally, rests with the perpetrator of these serious crimes. Any form of violence against women or girls is absolutely unacceptable.
"If criminal offences have been committed – including incitement of violence against women – then the government would expect local police forces to deal with any offenders appropriately."
Asked if the government would consider banning Valizadeh from coming to the UK in the future, Bradley said: "The home secretary has powers to exclude an individual who is not a British citizen if she considers their presence in the UK is not conducive to the public good." She added: "I cannot comment on individual cases."
The minister even said she would talk with internet service providers and companies such as Facebook to see if material posted on the Return of Kings website should be banned.
The debate is likely to further anger members of the group, who have accused the media and gender equality campaigners of "spreading lies" about it. They insist they do not support violence against women and say the hysteria is based on "satirical" articles written by Valizadeh.