'India gang rape' fashion shoot showing model being harassed on board bus sparks outrage

Pictures of woman being 'sexually assaulted' were intended to raise awareness, claims photographer

Asia Correspondent

A photo shoot apparently inspired by the gang rape and murder of a Delhi student has sparked outrage in India.

Images from the shoot, taken by Mumbai photographer Raj Shetye, show models in glamorous clothes aboard a bus. Several shots show a woman being harassed while another appears to show one woman in the process of being sexually assaulted.

The photographer, however, has defended the project saying it is an attempt to force people to think about women’s safety.

The series of images, entitled "The Wrong Turn", was initially posted on the Behance.net platform and the photographer’s own website. But they have been taken down, apparently amid an outcry in the Indian media and on social networking sites.

Among those to criticise the project was Sapna Moti Bhavnani, a Bollywood hairstylist and actress who took part in a recent stage production based on the gang-rape, Nirbhaya. “There is art and more frequently there is crap in the name of art. This rendition of the Nirbhaya story is...,” she said on social media.

Bollywood music director Vishal Dadlani tweeted: "Did I just see a fashion-spread depicting the Delhi gang rape of Nirbhaya? Disgusting! I hope all associated, die of shame! Insensitive swine!", the BBC reported.

"Whoever you are... I hope you go to jail for this."

In December 2012, a young woman was attacked and raped after she and a friend boarded a bus after leaving the cinema in Delhi. She died ten days later from her injuries in a hospital in Singapore where she had been sent in a desperate effort to save her life.

Video: 2012 rape of Indian woman

The case sparked a huge, unprecedented debate within India about the position of women in India and their vulnerability to sexual assaults. The Indian media, prevented by Indian law from identifying the young physiotherapy student, instead named her Nirbhaya, the Hindi word for “fearless”.

On Wednesday, Mr Shetye defended the project. In a statement emailed to The Independent he said he had been planning a project on the position of women in India for some time. He said he was inspired by the discomfort of seeing his mother, friends and sister “constraining themselves professionally and personally just to be safe”.

“It’s unfortunate that I am compelled to justify my artistic expression around a social issue,” he said, saying he was glad he had sparked debate on the issue. “If the cost to set the ball-rolling here is that I have [to] be the bad guy, then be it that way."

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