A temple visit a day “fully dressed” keeps rapists away, or so it would seem from what Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Babulal Gaur has to say.

The 10-time MLA returned from a visit to Chennai apparently so impressed by the religiosity of the city’s women that he now firmly believes this is the reason there are fewer sexual crimes there.

At a function on Thursday, Mr. Gaur, who has courted controversy before with his remarks on how marriage was not a contract as men were worshipped as gods by their wives, said women in Chennai were relatively safe as they “visit temples regularly” and are “fully dressed.”

The Madhya Pradesh capital has one of the highest rates in India for crimes against women. In Chennai, in 2012, the rates of crimes against women — calculated by dividing the total number of crimes by the female population — was 19.32; for Bhopal district, it was 71.38, and for the whole of Madhya Pradesh, 71.38.

During the inauguration of the Ayodhya Nagar Police Station here on Thursday Mr. Gaur, who met top police officials in Chennai during his visit, said: “They said that women are religious and hence, they are fully clothed. That’s why the crime rate there is lower than many other States.”

Speaking to The Hindu later, Mr. Gaur added: “There is a cultural difference between Chennai and Bhopal” and “crimes such as chain snatching, eve teasing et cetera are low there. People are religious and women visit temples everyday. They are fully dressed and there is no vulgarity. It is also peaceful and Marwari businessmen have settled there for work because the environment is safe.”

Asked by this reporter over the phone, Chennai’s Joint Commissioner of Police (Intelligence) V. Varadaraju declined to comment on the religious aspect.

He said he and his colleagues had spoken to Mr. Gaur about the Women’s Policing initiative. “We have 32 women’s police stations which deal with all crimes against women. We engage professionals from NGOs for counselling. Also, there are mobile units which address crime at the earliest and also educate women about their rights. This initiative has changed the public’s attitude.”

M.P.’s Congress vice-president Manak Agrawal said Mr. Gaur’s comments had insulted the way of life of women in Madhya Pradesh. “It seems the Home Minister has surrendered before anti-socials who openly play with the dignity of women and have thrived under BJP rule.”

Police had recently launched the “Nirbhaya Women Patrol Vans” which monitor parks, colleges and crowded areas. The initiative has been criticised for moral policing. Bhopal has 37 police stations including a women’s police station for a population of 2.4 million. The population served by the 135 stations of the Greater Chennai Police is 8.5 million.