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Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 September, 2003, 08:13 GMT 09:13 UK
Malaysian minister: 'Lipstick invites rape'
By Jonathan Kent
BBC correspondent in Kuala Lumpur

A controversial leader of Malaysia's Islamist opposition party, the Pan Malaysian Islamic Party, has been criticised by women's groups for saying that wearing perfume and lipstick could arouse men and provoke rape.

Nik Aziz Nik Mat, who is also chief minister in the state of Kelantan, was launching a moral awareness campaign aimed at the state's young people.

In his speech last weekend, Mr Nik Aziz declared that wearing a headscarf was not enough to avoid arousing men.

Malaysian women at a bus stop
Wearing a head scarf is not enough, says the Kelantan minister
Even a very modestly dressed woman could stir up desires in the opposite sex by applying glossy lipstick or perfume, he said.

Government and women's organisations have been quick to condemn his remarks. Many called them ridiculous.

Zainah Anwar, of the group Sisters in Islam, said that the Koran required men to take responsibility for controlling their sexual feelings.

A spokesman for Mr Nik Aziz said he was stressing that everyone, men and women alike, had a responsibility to behave modestly.

However, the controversial minister regularly appears to place the blame for men's failings on women.

Most notoriously, he suggested that his state government should only employ ugly women, because pretty ones might get married.

He also ordered that advertising billboards in Kelantan should only show women who have hidden their hair with a headscarf.

Kelantan is a conservative and overwhelmingly Muslim rural area.

Muslim leaders there have expressed concern about the increasing influence of Western culture on young people.

Many who wear the tudong, a headscarf pulled tightly about the face, often also choose to wear close-fitting clothes such as jeans.

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