The rape debate

Today saw another slew of headlines about rape, in a seminal week for the debate over how people perceive sexual violence.

In Ecuador, president Rafael Correa insisted the allegations against Julian Assange would not constitute rape in Latin America.

Ecuador president: Assange allegations 'not rape in Latin America'

The comment, which echoes statements from George Galloway, was greeted with concern by women's rights groups.

Assange is accused of having intercourse with a woman without a condom while she slept. They had previously had consensual sex during which she insisted on protection, according to reports.

The scenario prompted Respect MP George Galloway to insist it was not a case of rape and would not be considered so under English law. That view is contrary to two separate courts which found it would be a crime in this country as well as Sweden, which wants Assange to answer questions over the incident.

Galloway: Anti-rape reaction is a Pentagon conspiracy

Galloway's comments meant he lost the support of party leader Salma Yaqoob, who said his views were "deeply disappointing and wrong". The standoff raises an interesting question for Respect, which is in the unusual position of having a party leader who is less prominent and in a lower political position than her most famous member.

Respect leader attacks Galloway for rape comments

Galloway's questioning of the Swedish womens' allegations against Assange was backed up by former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray on Newsnight. He went so far as to name one of the accusers, in as move which sparked outrage online.

Today, outgoing MP Louise Mensch seized on both men's comments as evidence of a serious problem in the way people on the left and right perceive rape.

Mensch: Rape comments show why women should run Ministry of Justice

She compared them to Ministry of Justice plans to grant anonymity to rape defendants – an idea proposed by the Lib Dems – and Ken Clarke's controversial comments on "serious rape" last year.

Mensch, who is stepping down as an MP this autumn, suggested one response to the problem was to appoint a female junior justice minister in the upcoming reshuffle.

That suggestion would do little to address problems in the police force, which was found today to have probably underreported rape.

Home Office figures showed 11% of allegations are written off as 'no crime' incidents, compared to just two per cent of burglaries, drug complaints or robberies.

Police 'writing off' rape allegations

Meanwhile, the US was reeling after comments from Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin said women's bodies stopped them getting pregnant after "legitimate rape".

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney finally demanded he step down yesterday after equivocating for a couple of days, but the comments raised concerns at the views towards women still held by some in the Republican party.

Romney finally demands 'legitimate rape' candidate quits