Warning: This post deals with issues around assault and could be triggering for some readers.
Almost two years ago a rape case in India sparked worldwide outrage. It involved Nirbhaya, the pseudonym given to the 23-year-old female physiotherapy intern, who was gang-raped by six men on a bus in South Delhi.
Nirbhaya (which means “fearless) died 13 days later while undergoing emergency treatment for the physical and internal injuries she sustained during the attack.
It generated widespread national and international coverage and condemnation over the treatment of women in India.
And now a Mumbai-based fashion photographer has released a photo series depicting an Indian woman being abused by male passengers on a bus..
“The Wrong Turn,” shows a woman in glamorous designer fashion being groped, held against her will, and on the floor of the bus while a pantless male steps over her body.
Raj Shetye has denied the shoot had anything to do with Nirbhaya.
“This is in no way meant to glamorise the act, which was very bad,” Shetye told BuzzFeed. “It’s just a way of throwing light on it.”
He apparently he came up with the concept of the shoot two years ago, before the attack happened but took his time with the shoot because he “didn’t want to create something irresponsible.”
“The message I would like to give is that it doesn’t matter who the girl is,” he said. “It doesn’t depend on which class she belonged in — it can happen to anyone,” Shetye told Buzzfeed.
“I have been getting a number of calls regarding this, I don’t know how to react. The shoot is not based on the Nirbhaya incident. It is just a depiction of the situation of women in our country right now,” he told the Delhi Times.
“It is my personal work, not for any commercial value. I have taken the shoot down from my official site. I’m a working professional and I don’t want hate messages on Facebook and Twitter,” he said.
It’s hard not to compare the images to the attack on Nirbhaya, but whether or not it was an intentional move from Shetye, it’s obvious from his quote, “It makes me feel satisfied about my work – at least the work I did is so impactful that I’m able to shed some light on this. I don’t feel happy, but it makes me feel satisfied. That whatever I’ve tried to communicate is being communicated,” that he isn’t aware of the implications of his “art.”
No one is discussing the treatment of women in India, just how distasteful and despicable his fashion shoot is.
The pictures, which were posted to Shetye’s Behance page, have now been taken down.