In 2012, the brutal gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old physiotherapy student on a bus in New Delhi, rocked a nation and the world, shining a much-needed global spotlight on the treatment of women in India. Recently, Mumbai fashion photographer Raj Shetye released a series of controversial photos on his online portfolio called ‘The Wrong Turn’ (which has since been taken down), showing a young woman, dressed in high-fashion couture, being harassed on a public bus.
In one of the shocking images a man hovers over the woman as she lies on the floor, while another shows her struggling against two men who are gripping her arms tightly. A final picture shows two men pinning her down. Quite reminiscent of the controversial ad by Dolce & Gabbana, that shows a woman pinned down by a muscle-head model, while a few others guys await their turn.
Nirmala Samant, chairwoman of the National Commission for Women, has written to Mumbai’s chief of police calling for an immediate investigation: “Any person with common sense will understand this is nothing but glorifying of violence,” she told Agence France-Presse.
“I’m of the strong opinion that there should be some legal action because this is not artistic freedom, certainly not,” she added.
The photographer gave the following (rather pathetic) explanation of his fashion series to Buzzfeed: “This is in no way meant to glamorize the act, which was very bad. It’s just a way of throwing light on it…and the aim is to create art that will gather some reaction in society. The message I would like to give is that it doesn’t matter who the girl is. It doesn’t depend on which class she belonged in — it can happen to anyone.”
Um, no it glamorises rape.
The parallels between the fashion shoot and the student’s murder drew lots of anger on Twitter yesterday, leaving people shocked and, quite frankly, in disbelief. One simply cannot argue that this fashion shoot had nothing to do with the horrific incident in 2012. Placing aspirational bodies in the form of beautiful/polished models, wearing high-fashion clothing, in situations which so closely mimic a real or imaginary event where people were or are being harmed or abused is just plain offensive. And the fashion industry needs to stop playing dumb every time they step over the line.