India rape protest
Women in Uttar Pradesh protest against the state goverment after two cousins aged 12 and 14 were raped and hanged Reuters

A minister from India's ruling Bharatiya Janata party has described rape as a "social crime", saying "sometimes it's right, sometimes it's wrong", amid mounting public anger over sex attacks on women.

Regional minister Babulal Gaur said that the crime of rape can only be considered to have been committed if it is reported to the police.

"This is a social crime which depends on men and women. Sometimes it's right, sometimes it's wrong," said Gaur, the home minister responsible for law and order in the central state of Madhya Pradesh.

"Until there's a complaint, nothing can happen," he told reporters.

Gaur also sympathised with rival political leader Mulayam Singh Yadav, who told an election rally in April that he was opposed to the death penalty for gang rapists because "boys will be boys, they make mistakes."

The minister even defended the government of the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, which has been the subject of global outrage since the recent gang-rape and murder of two teenage girls in the village of Katra Shahadatganj.

The BJP dismissed Gaur's comments as an expression of his personal views, rather than those of the party's.

Widespread criticism

The Uttar Pradesh state government has faced criticism for failing to visit the scene where the two girls were gang raped and hung from a mango tree.

Last month the state's chief minister Akhilesh Yadav, the son of Mulayam Singh, faced severe criticism for his perceived insensitivity over the attacks on the two Dalit girls.

When questioned by reporters about an increase in rape cases in Uttar Pradesh, he replied: "It's not as if you faced any danger."

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has remained silent over the killings, despite widespread public protests over police inactivity.

The father of one of the victims said that the police "refused to look for my girl" when he reported her missing, because he was of a lower caste. Three men have been arrested over the killings and two policemen have been detained on suspicion of covering up the crime.

Other sex crimes against women have been reported in Uttar Pradesh since the attack on the two girls. The body of a 22-year-old, who had been raped and burnt with acid in an alleged attempt to conceal her identity, was discovered last week in a field in the village of Aithpura.