An Indian photographer’s attempt to turn the 2012 New Delhi bus gang rape into a fashion photo shoot has sparked outrage all across India and beyond.
Raj Shetye did the shoot last week and published it on his Behance page … and the photos show a well-dressed woman trying to fend off the sexual attacks of a group of men in a bus.
The photo shoot titled The Wrong Turn quickly reminded people of what happened to a 23-year old girl named Nirbhaya, who was brutally gang raped by 6 men inside a bus 0n December 16, 2012. The girl later died from the assault, sparking days of protests across the country and forcing India to tighten its rape laws. The incident also kickstarted a worldwide debate on rape.
When the criticisms started pouring in, Sheteye insisted to BuzzFeed – and later Huffington Post – that the photo shoot was not about Nirbaya, but instead it was about raising awareness of the safety of women and girls in India in the way he knows best.
But his explanations did not help matters. The backlash became even more fierce, so fierce that it started trending nationwide. Many commenters lambasted his work as ‘glamorizing rape,’ ‘disgusting’, ‘insulting’ and ‘insensitive’.
Eventually, Sheteye took down the photos and tried to explain himself on Facebook.
‘The shoot was meant to draw attention to a subject or topic of discussion that is so very much in existence today – not necessarily not only the rapes we hear about BUT also those that go unreported,’ he wrote. ‘It is meant to highlight our double standards where people expect the rich or well-heeled to dress well and travel in the luxury security and comfort of their own vehicle BUT an average Indian who commutes by public transport is expected to dress norm core so as to conform to norms of societal expectation thereby killing her dream to look good & be the cynosure of all eyes.’
He continued, ‘It was intentionally done in a bus to cause men to think of what gives them the right to assume that well dressed women in public transport (signifying public spaces in general) can be targets & also what gives the general public the right to cast aspersions on women and their character if they are well dressed and seen in public.’
In the end, Sheteye said he’s glad that his work at least started a conversation.
See more of his controversial photos below.