NEW DELHI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A fashion shoot depicting a woman being sexually assaulted on a bus has stirred memories of the fatal gang rape of a young woman in 2012, outraging the victim’s parents and activists who have demanded action against the photographer.
The December 2012 attack on the woman on the bus created upheaval in India, triggering days of protests over pervasive violence against women and raising questions about the place of women in the world’s largest democracy.
The woman, a 23-year-old physiotherapist, was lured onto an unlicensed bus in New Delhi and repeatedly raped and tortured by five men and a teenager. She later died of her injuries.
Of the six accused of her rape and murder, one committed suicide in jail and four were sentenced to death. The teenager was remanded in a juvenile reform centre.
The pictures for the fashion spread were taken by Mumbai photographer Raj Shetye and posted this week on the photography site Behance.
The series of pictures, called “The Wrong Turn”, showed a young woman in different outfits, fending off a group of young men on a bus. The pictures have been removed from the site.
The mother of the women killed in 2012 told Reuters Television the photographer was mocking her daughter and trying to hurt her parents.
“It has once again brought us face-to-face with the incident and he has done it for his own publicity and to make money,” the mother said. “He has tried to hurt the sentiments of parents and has mocked a girl’s struggle. He has no right to play with anyone’s sentiments.”
The woman’s father said he would appeal to the courts to take action against Shetye.
“They should be ashamed of it. What is he trying to show to the juveniles and youths of the nation? He should be punished. I will appeal the Supreme Court to punish him and the photo shoot should be banned,” he said.
Under the law, the name of the victim or her relatives cannot to be published.
Shetye was quoted on Buzzfeed news site as saying he was merely trying to depict the plight of Indian women and denied attempting to depict the exact scene of the Delhi gang rape.
“But being a part of society and being a photographer, that topic moves me from inside,” he was quoted as saying. “I stay in a society where my mother, my girlfriend, my sister are out there and something like this can happen to them also.
“Being a photographer, the only medium I can communicate in is photos. For me, its as simple as that. It’s art.”
Shetye was later unavailable for comment.
Lawyer and women’s rights activist Abha Singh accused Shetye of seeking cheap publicity by glamorising rape.
“The gang rape brought many people on the streets. It was such a horrific incident that cannot be justified. But if Mumbai’s celebrity photographer makes a photo shoot and models enact that gruesome incident to make money, this is cheap publicity for a commercial venture,” said Singh.
The Delhi gang rape forced the government to amend laws and put in place stricter punishments. It also brought greater public awareness about crime against women.
The number of rapes in India rose 35.2 percent to 33,707 in 2013 compared with the previous year - with Delhi reporting 1,441 rapes in 2013, according to the National Crime Records Bureau.
Police said the outcry over the 2012 case made women more willing to report rape.
Writing by Nita Bhalla; Editing by Robert Birsel